Thursday, June 28, 2018

SCOPE50 Newsletter - June 2018

                                                                                 SCOPE50 Newsletter - June 2018

Reflections on the SCOPE50 Annual Board Meeting by Lanny Kaufer
Last week I had the honor of attending a board retreat in South Carolina for SCOPE50, the nonprofit headed by civil rights leader and author John Reynolds that was born out of the 50-year reunion of the SCOPE Project, a 1965 voter registration initiative of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The original project was directed by Hosea Williams and we were blessed to have his daughter Barbara Williams Emerson in attendance as a board member. Richard Smiley, veteran of the Selma March, also joined us on the board along with Jo Freeman and Mary Whyte. Our special guest was Bernard LaFayette, current chairman of the board of SCLC, who led us through the first two hours of training in Kingian Nonviolence.
Board members (1).JPG
J.Reynolds, M.Whyte, J.Freeman, B.Lafayette, B.Emerson, R.Smiley, L.Kaufer
John held the retreat at a camp on Seabrook Island, one of several barrier islands along the southeast coast of the U.S. Although the great majority of our time was spent in board meetings, the location of the camp allowed me to indulge in some nature study, another of my passions alongside preserving the history of the Civil Rights Movement. The camp is situated on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in the maritime forest. According to the NOAA, "Maritime forests are shoreline estuaries that grow along coastal barrier islands that support a great diversity of plants and animals. Many maritime forests in the United States remain largely untouched by commercial development and closely resemble the woodlands where Native Americans lived and early colonists settled hundreds of years ago."
As the plane broke through the layer of morning fog over the L.A. basin to expose the frothy topside of the clouds I thought of Hermes's famous saying, "As above, so below." Later that day, walking through the airport in Atlanta I came upon a tribute to Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement, a fitting beginning to my journey and a reminder of how much things had changed in some parts of the South since the 1960s.
That feeling was reinforced the next evening on Seabrook Island when we went to a nearby park for a free concert by a great funk-soul band called Java from Charlotte, NC. Back in the day when I was serving in the SCOPE Project (Summer Community Organization and Political Education) in southern Virginia, a band like that would have played only for black audiences on the African-American side of town. What a loss for the white folks back then.
It was an honor and pleasure to meet and learn from Freedom Rider and civil rights icon Bernard LaFayette who is still doing Dr. King's work and teaching Kingian Nonviolence after all these years. But other than a couple of photos of him and a white-tailed deer that wandered through camp, most of my pics were taken during a nature hike the following day with Sam Rockwell, a naturalist employed by St. Christopher Camp.
The first plant that caught my eye reminded me very much of my local Southern California Bay Baurel. It even had a laurel family type flower. I picked a leaf and with heavy sniffing was able to pick up a familiar scent. Sam informed me it was Red Bay. Apparently people use it for cooking but they'd be in for a big surprise if they used our powerfully aromatic Umbellularia californica in its place. The next plant had red berries. It was Yaupon Holly, a true Ilex, the genus that gives its name to our Southern California Hollyleaf Cherry and Toyon which is also known as California Holly.
Inside the canopy of the maritime forest under the gathering clouds of Tropical Storm Alberto we entered a world as foreign to this SoCal ethnobotanist as anywhere I've been. Giant Southern Magnolias rubbed shoulders with Cabbage Palms and Live Oaks enshrouded in Spanish Moss (not really a moss but a flowering plant). Loblolly Pines provided someplace for American Trumpet Vines and Muscadine Grapes to twine and twist up toward the sky. Cardinals flitted through the woods and three species of herons rose up from the estuaries.
The narrow trail snaked through thick beds of fallen Magnolia leaves when suddenly a beautiful snake crossed my path. The instant it left the trail it disappeared under the leaves, or so I thought. It took me 10 seconds or more of staring to discover it right in front of me. Though I'd never seen one before, I knew what it was immediately from its brilliant copper head. A master of camouflage!
Although it was the dry season now in the maritime forest, I couldn't resist trying the rope suspension bridge anyway. It gave me a new appreciation for slack line walkers. Finally we emerged out of the forest to a place where a sprawling salt marsh flanked by Southern Red Cedars met the ocean. Sea Oxeye Daisies flowered in abundance and there in the dunes were the ultimate plant survivors, Opuntia, in this case represented by Eastern Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa). I remembered reading in explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca's account of his travels in the 1500s that when he was shipwrecked and taken in by Indians on the Gulf Coast he endured a drought and famine along with them by eating the pads and fruits of this humble cactus, the original American survival food.
Finally, after 3 hours in the forest, Alberto struck in the last 5 minutes of our hike, leaving me drenched but exhilarated (and happy about the timing).
John could see I was frustrated after several fruitless walks to a pond on the camp property said to be the home of an alligator, so he drove me and Jo Freeman to a pond he knew where I finally got to see a real live gator in its natural habitat.
We'll be sharing the SCOPE50 news from the retreat on the facebook page and the SCOPE50 website so I won't get into all that here. Just to say it was great to be there in South Carolina for some productive time with my SCOPE compadres although I missed sharing the special moments with my wife Rondia Kaufer. I was almost home to her when I stopped over in Atlanta on the way west and this time had enough layover in ATL to find the legendary Paschal's for a soul food meal you won't find in any other airport between the Atlantic seacoast and Rondia's Kitchen.
Remembering Ralph David Abernathy  by John Reynolds  
On Sunday, June 24, NPR remembered Ralph David Abernathy and the Poor People's Campaign.
I remember hearing the voice of Ralph David Abernathy over the radio in 1955.  I'd never heard a black man speak like him before. I remember the moment ten years later when I saw him for the first time as he burst through the back door of SCLC's National headquarters heading for his office on the lower level.
I spent some amazing times with this man who was my teacher and my pastor.  I never will forget him dozing off at a meeting in the conference room during the initial planning of the Poor People's Campaign.  There was heated discussion about whether we should go to DC, but Ralph could take a nap anywhere. He awoke and said, "Martin wants to go to DC, and so we're going." And that was it.  I said to myself, "Wow!"  But as you know, Dr. King had a detour to Memphis, and he never made it to DC. 
I was fortunate to be one of three SCLC staff members to be with Ralph as he arrived in DC to begin the Poor People's Campaign.  J. T. Johnson arrived on the plane with Ralph. Walter Fauntroy and I waited at the bottom of the stairs as they disembarked from the plane. The three of us took him to a black-owned motel on 14th Street NW in DC.  I was also there at the end of the Poor People's Campaign when the Police shut down Resurrection City and placed handcuffs on Ralph because he would not leave.
I remember Ralph coming to Providence with Bernard Lee to promote the Poor People's Campaign. I remember the time that Ralph sat around Gloria's and my dining room table sharing a meal. I remember the time that Ralph, Bernard Lee and I went to the Adult Correctional Institution in Rhode Island for him to talk to inmates.  I was surprised, after all of the times that Ralph had gone to jail with Dr. King, to see and feel his discomfort at being in the prison. On another occasion, I remember when a hotel in Providence gave up his room because we were late.  I remember him saying to the manager, "Then I will sleep in the lobby."  (The hotel found a room for him.) 
So I remember a side of Ralph David Abernathy, the leader of the Civil Rights Movement, that few others saw. I believe that there wouldn't have been a Civil Rights bill, a Voting Rights bill or school lunches without Ralph David Abernathy.  I hope you will join me in remembering this
man, this remarkable leader.
The New Poor People's Campaign
At its annual Board meeting, the SCOPE50 Board decided to become an endorsing organization of the new Poor People's Campaign, which has been engaging in mass nonviolent direct action in 39 states and the District of Columbia. 
Their campaign intensified this year, starting on Mother's Day with six weeks of education, organizing, coalition-building and direct action across 39 states and the District of Columbia, leading up to a mass mobilization at the U. S. Capitol on June 23 for the Stand Against Poverty Mass Rally and Moral Revival, and launching the next phase of the movement for the long-haul.
For those interested in getting involved, go to and get connected with the leadership in your state.
Non-Violence Training
Bernard Lafayette, the Chairman of the Board at SCLC, conducted a two-day Kingian nonviolence training for the SCOPE50 Board members, which we are hoping to take to schools and communities.  We have developed a Nonviolence Resistance brochure which we are distributing to communities in several states.
Voter Registration
SCOPE50 continues to promote voter registration across the country.  We are working with community groups like the League of Women Voters, the Sea Island Action Network, Rock the Vote and churches.  We are also working with March for Our Lives.   A new PSA is being developed.
In Memorium:  Dorothy Cotton –"The only woman in the room"  by John Reynolds
On Sunday, June 10, we lost Dorothy Cotton, who was an important part of SCLC since the early 1960's. 
Dorothy was Director of SCLC's Citizenship Education Program, replacing Andrew Young as Director.  Other than Ella Baker, Dorothy was the only woman to serve as a member of the Executive Staff.  Dorothy played a significant role within SCLC, and in the Movement in general. 
Often Dorothy was the only woman in the room.  SCLC was primarily a men's organization, and most of those men were ministers, and so Dorothy endured sexism even within SCLC.  But Dorothy was in the room where decisions were made and where strategies were developed.  Her voice was the voice of those in the community.  She was in St. Augustine.  She was in Birmingham.  Dorothy was an educator in her own right, and she was in communities like Selma teaching people how to read and write so that they could become registered voters and full citizens.    
I remember meeting Dorothy in 1965 at the Penn Center.  One of the first things that I was struck by was her beautiful voice.  Dorothy had a great talent for music and on a number of occasions she used that voice to motivate people to go into the battlefield.  I remember riding to Atlanta from the Penn Center in South Carolina with Dorothy, Septima Clark and Anita Poindexter to be interviewed by Dr. King and become a part of SCLC. 
I have been in touch with Dorothy occasionally over the past five years.  For example, I invited her to speak at our 50th Reunion, but unfortunately she was unable to attend.  Within the last five years she moved into assisted living facility, and she lost one of her sisters.  That loss hit her hard and was difficult for her to talk about. 
Dorothy Cotton's importance to the Movement was a topic of conversation during our recent Board meeting, as one of the SCOPE50 Board members was reading her book, If Your Back's Not Bent; The Role of the Citizenship Education Program in the Civil Rights Movement.  As one of the reviews on the back of the book states:  "The history of the civil rights movement would not be complete without the experiences and insights of Dorothy F. Cotton, who provides a much-needed female perspective on life on the front lines with Martin Luther King Jr."
Oral History Project
At the SCOPE50 Board meeting we initiated the Oral History Project, where we are attempting to collect the history of our SCOPE members so that we can preserve and archive this history for future generations.  We are planning is to provide this history to schools across the country to be a part of their curriculum.  There was discussion at the Board meeting of copyrighting the interviews with SCOPE50 ownership.  During the Board meeting, most of the SCOPE members who attended the Board meeting were interviewed.  Dr. Kerry Taylor, Associate Professor of History at The Citadel in Charleston, SC, conducted the audio oral histories, and Board member Mary Whyte conducted video interviews with the technical assistance of David Child. 
Mary Whyte, David Child, Barbara Williams Emerson
Letters will be going out to the SCOPE50 membership about participation in the Oral History Project.  Several options will be given as to how members can participate. 
Emanuel 9 Rally for Unity
Several local members of SCOPE50 attended a rally held on the 3rd anniversary of the shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston that took nine lives.  Survivors and family members of the victims spoke.  Another participant on the program was Joan Baez, a frequent presence at SCLC rallies in the 1960's.  Mayor John Tecklenburg read a resolution recently passed by the Charleston City Council, apologizing for Charleston's role in the slave trade and for wrongs committed against African-Americans by slavery and Jim Crow laws.   The resolution pledges that city officials will work with businesses and organizations to strive for racial equality.  Also, I was interviewed by one of the local TV stations during the rally.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

SCOPE50 Newsletter - May 2018

                               SCOPE50 News                     
The Struggle Continues!                                                                                                                                                                                                      May 2018
Visit to St. Matthews, SC - April 9, 2018 – by Lynn Goldberg
The remarkable and all too short life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. prompted a trip to the United States by Japanese professor, Miyuki Kita this past week. She has studied and written about American history and particularly about the civil rights movement of the 1960's. Her students at Kitakyushu University study the book she wrote about the SCLC-SCOPE summer of 1965 and ask her many questions about the students who were courageous enough to go south to register voters. Following the emotional ceremonies in Memphis, TN she traveled to St. Matthews, SC, the town that was the focus of her book on the voter registration effort. She had never previously had an opportunity to visit the town, nor to meet some of the people at the center of the memorable SCLC-SCOPE summer of 1965.
Our group met in downtown St. Matthews on a glorious spring day the made us glad that summer had not yet arrived here with its dripping, scorching heat such as we experienced there when the group from Brandeis University worked to register people to vote. First we stepped into the courthouse of Calhoun County, which is very much as it was when lines of black folk stood for hours hoping for a chance to have their names registered. Melvin Hart (son of our host Furman Hart, Sr.) was our guide and he introduced us to Ken Hasty. Ken is now the clerk of court of Calhoun County – proud to be the first black man elected to that office. He gave the SCOPE workers of the 1960's credit for helping to make his position a reality. It was such a gratifying moment for me.
We toured the town to see the points of interest pertaining to the Brandeis SCOPE summer. First off was the scene of the KKK rally that took place on August 14, 1965. The small grassy field brought back painful thoughts about how our group was constantly intimidated by so many of the white residents of the community. It also was a stark contrast to the white Banks family who stood with us during that summer. It was a distinct pleasure for me to actually meet Martin Banks, a prominent lawyer in St. Matthews, who filled us with stories of how it was "back then".  His family has owned and farmed thousands of acres in the region dating back to the time of land grants from England, yet they were at the forefront of freeing and elevating the slaves.
As we continued our drive, we saw the home of the Floyds and the site of their store. This was such a central meeting place for our SCOPE group, a place where we could meet and be fed in more ways than one. We saw the home where the Hart family welcomed and supported us during that long tortuous summer. Another site we passed was the location of the once beautiful swimming pool, open to whites only and closed forever when black swimmers decided to join them in 1965. Now it is no more than an insignificant grassy area. Not far from there is the home where six of our group lived and worked for two important months of our lives.
During our tour we chanced upon Miss Geneva Floyd, who is now 98 years old, and out driving to meet her friend Miss Lillian Murphy who also leant us a hand during the summer of 1965. These two ladies made a huge difference in our comfort and well-being, and they are remembered always with great fondness. I was delighted to be able to see them.
Lillian Murphy, Melvin Hart, Geneva Floyd, Lynn Goldberg – St. Matthews, SC  April 6, 2018
Continuing our journey, we left the town of St. Matthews to follow the routes we took all those years ago looking for people we wanted to see registered to vote. We passed unending miles of cotton fields. The town of Lone Star, we discovered, was little more than a ghost town. In Fort Motte, a tiny village amidst those cotton fields, we visited the home of Abraham Williams whose father, Hope Williams, had nearly begun the civil rights movement long before the arrival of our group of workers. He knew the importance of education and voting to the progress of equality for everyone. He led us, and our fellow workers, to meet with people who could further our efforts. Meeting Abe was like meeting Hope again–he is very much like his father.
This day, for me, reinforced the importance of my experience in 1965 and made me grateful for the people I have come to know and the time I spent immersed in a culture I knew little about.
Hope's Kids
In our last issue we mentioned the book – Hope's Kids – recently published by Alan Venable, another Brandeis student who volunteered for the SCOPE project and was assigned to South Carolina.  Jo Freeman has written a review of the book which you can see at
The New Poor People's Campaign
You have all probably been aware of the emergence of The Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.  This movement, which kicked off on December 4, 2017 – fifty years to the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others called for the original Poor People's Campaign – will unite the poor, disenfranchised and marginalized to take action together, combining direct action with grassroots organizing, voter registration, power building and nonviolent civil disobedience.
In an article entitled "It's Time to Fight for America's Soul" in the December 5, 2017, issue of Time magazine, the co-chairs of the The Poor People's Campaign – Rev. William Barber and Rev. Liz Theoharis – described traveling around the country, holding trainings and mass meetings that drew thousands of people, in order to lay the groundwork for the launch of the new campaign.  It became clear to them that people are ready to come together and demand change.  "The conditions that motivated the original campaign have only worsened over the last fifty years, making the need for the Poor People's Campaign:  A National Call for Moral Revival more urgent than ever…  The Poor People's Campaign will unite Americans across all races, creeds, religions, classes and other divides to demand a moral agenda for the common good." 
The campaign will intensify this year, starting on Mother's Day with six weeks of education, organizing, coalition-building and direct action across 39 states and the District of Columbia, leading up to a mass mobilization at the U. S. Capitol on June 23.
For those interested in getting involved, go to and get connected with the leadership in your state.
SCOPE50's Support of the Poor People's Campaign
I was asked to attend a meeting of the local group working on this.  When I informed them that unfortunately I would be out of town visiting a friend who is ill, they asked if I would write a letter which could be read to the group.  I am reprinting here the letter I wrote as President of SCOPE50:
My friends,
It was fifty years ago that the Poor People's Campaign took place, but I remember it like it was yesterday.  I remember sitting around the table at SCLC headquarters planning the Poor People's Campaign, and Dr. King coming up with the name Resurrection City.  I remember the debate as to whether or not we should go to Washington, DC.  I remember that Dr. Abernathy, who had been dozing, woke up and said "We're going to Washington.  Martin wants to go and that's what we're going to do."  And then he walked out of the room.
We set about recruiting poor folks to go to DC – Native Americans, poor whites, Hispanics.  So in the summer of 1968, five thousand people lived in Resurrection City.  It was one of the worse rainy periods in DC in a long time.  It rained and rained.  Mud was everywhere.  But people who had never left their communities before were now in the Nation's capitol, confronting the leaders of the time.  Telling their stories about how real poverty was in America.  Talking about children going to bed hungry every night.  It was one of the few times that the people who were poor and the organizations representing them came together as one. 
Obviously, we were not successful, because we did not end poverty.  And that is why you are here tonight.  Because you are poor.  Children are still going to bed hungry.  Many of you do not have health care.  Many still have to choose between food and prescriptions. 
I stand with you this evening to say that poverty is real, and that is why SCOPE50 supports the new Poor People's Campaign.  I support your efforts.  I would be standing here in person, except that my best friend is ill in Rhode Island, so I am with him, but I am also with you in spirit.  And I pledge to stand with you going forward, for no child should go to bed hungry here in South Carolina or in this country.  I thank you for picking up the mantle of the Poor People's Campaign fifty years later.
                                                                                         John Reynolds
                                                                                         President, SCOPE50
Reprint of book about the Poor People's Campaign – "Jill Freedman: Resurrection City, 1968"
Published in 1970, Jill Freedman's Old News: Resurrection City documented the culmination of the Poor People's Campaign of 1968, organized by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and carried out under the leadership of Ralph Abernathy in the wake of Dr King's assassination. Three thousand people set up camp for six weeks in a makeshift town that was dubbed Resurrection City, and participated in daily protests. Freedman lived in the encampment for its entire six weeks, photographing the residents, their daily lives, their protests and their eventual eviction.
JF-Resurrection City.jpg
This new 50th-anniversary edition of the book, published March 27, 2018, reprints most of the pictures from the original publication, with improved printing and a more vivid design. Alongside Freedman's hard-hitting original text, two introductory essays are included, by John Edwin Mason, historian of African history and the history of photography at the University of Virginia, and by Aaron Bryant, Curator of Photography at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Article about Jimmy Collier, SCLC organizer/musician
Many of you may know Jimmy Collier from your time with SCLC or SCOPE.  Kerry Taylor, Associate Professor of History at the Citadel in Charleston, SC, has been working with the new Poor People's Campaign and decided to reconnect with Jimmy since he was such a presence at the original Poor People's Campaign in Resurrection City.  Kerry has given permission to reprint the article he published about Jimmy in

"Meet the organizer who helped create the soundtrack for the Poor People's Campaign"

by Kerry Taylor, March 9, 2018


A recent conversation with a young organizer who is working for the Poor People's Campaign:  A National Call for Moral Revival prompted me to reconnect with Jimmy Collier. I wanted Jimmy — who was an organizer-musician with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) — to know that the songs he composed and recorded 50 years ago with the Rev. Frederick Douglass Kirkpatrick continue to inspire activists for peace and equality. 
Jimmy Collier at the original Poor People's Campaign. (Photo by Erik Falkensteen used with permission.)
In 1968, they recorded an album for Folkways Records titled "Everybody's Got a Right to Live" that served as the soundtrack for the original Poor People's Campaign — a mass mobilization of poor people who traveled to Washington, D.C., to engage in disruptive protests aimed at forcing government action to end poverty. The Poor People's Campaign was initiated by Martin Luther King Jr., who believed that President Lyndon B. Johnson had sacrificed federal War on Poverty programs for an expanded war in Vietnam. In the wake of King's assassination, organizers like Jimmy continued the work of the Poor People's Campaign, recruiting poor people from across the country to take part in the D.C. protests. Gordon Mantler's outstanding 2013 book "Power to the Poor" provides the best critical history of the Poor People's Campaign.  
Beyond an occasional Facebook message, I had not spoken to Jimmy for at least 10 years. Knowing that he had suffered some recent health setbacks, I was glad to find him in excellent spirits. He was pleased to learn that young activists find meaning in his music. And he had been tracking the new Poor People's Campaign from his home in Fresno, California, where he and his wife, Cathy, moved a few years ago from their home near Yosemite National Park in order to be closer to their children. We updated one another regarding the whereabouts of mutual friends, many of whom were affiliated with the Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival — a yearly celebration of labor culture that brings together musicians, visual artists, poets, storytellers, and filmmakers. We first met at the San Francisco Bay-area festival in the mid-1990s, when Jimmy, playing guitar or banjo, shared billing with protest-song luminaries like Utah Phillips and Pete Seeger.
Following our phone conversation, I revisited a 1999 interview that I conducted with Jimmy along with Tenisha Armstrong, my longtime co-worker at the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University (now the MLK Research and Education Institute). In that interview Jimmy had discussed his musical upbringing in Fort Smith, Arkansas, his introduction to the movement as a community college student in Chicago, and his four-year association with the SCLC. Both the phone call and the interview reminded me of Jimmy's great qualities as an organizer and a friend. The conversation also reinforced ideas I have been thinking about with regards to our present political moment and the importance of movement building.
Within SCLC, Jimmy wanted to be recognized as an organizer, but SCLC leaders viewed him firstly as a musician. Jimmy was often tasked with warming up crowds as a song leader until the arrival of Dr. King or another featured speaker. "I got very clever at being able to get people going," he recalled. "As soon as he walked in, then pretty much I was forgotten. I mean it was kind of in an instant." SCLC leaders preferred Jimmy as an opening act over church choirs or high profile performers because he would leave the stage quickly and without fuss upon Dr. King's arrival. "It didn't bother me," he said. "It was sort of part of my job." 
The lines between musician and organizer were always porous in the movement, so Jimmy made the most of his opportunities to organize. Assigned to work in Chicago under the direction of SCLC strategist James Bevel, Jimmy's talent for fusing topical folk songs with contemporary soul hits proved useful in organizing young African Americans who were skeptical of King and SCLC's advocacy of nonviolence. We were "trying to get the gangs on our side, or at least to get them to let us have nonviolent demonstrations," he said. "At least if they're not going to join, [they should] at least not stop" the protests. By the mid-1960s, freedom songs emerging from the Southern struggle sounded dated to Northern ears, but reworked hits by the Impressions and Sam Cooke resonated with Chicago's West Side youth. Jimmy's "Burn Baby Burn" — a dark lament and angry meditation on the urban rebellions of the mid-1960s written from the perspective of an arsonist — represent a creative peak of his efforts to merge soul and protest music. The song's subtleties, however, may not have translated well to SCLC mass meetings. Jimmy recalled that Dr. King suggested he not play "Burn Baby Burn" because of its tone.   
At several points in our conversation, Tenisha and I raised criticisms of SCLC's strategy and tactics, echoing arguments we had read in scholarly accounts of the movement. Jimmy's gentle rejoinders reminded us that successful movements require flexibility and humility. "No one has the key to the timing, the evolution, or any of it," he said. "I mean, all you can do is what you can do at the time, and then if it's the right time things will jell, personalities will come together, energies will be created." Given the level of resistance, "it was a miracle that any of it ever worked," he added. Did we underestimate going into Selma, Albany, or Mississippi? he asked rhetorically. Ending Jim Crow segregation "was a goal that any rational person would have said was impossible to meet at any time, but that just wasn't going to stop it."
Though sympathetic to the criticisms of the movement's over-reliance on King's charismatic leadership at the expense of bottom-up organizing, Jimmy continues to admire SCLC's ability to forge powerful coalitions and to tie the local work to concrete legislative reforms. "My guess is you needed both" approaches, he said. "The situation was severe enough to where you need every style." Moreover, on the ground and in the face of sometimes deadly opposition, the fine distinctions tend to diminish in importance.  
At 73, Jimmy may not be able to join us for the new Poor People's Campaign — traveling with his guitar can be a challenge these days and he is slowly recovering after losing his voice last year. But new organizers and artists will emerge to carry through on what is shaping up as a national campaign to confront poverty, racism, environmental degradation, militarism, and our debased political culture. The best of those organizer-leaders will engage the movement with at least a bit of Jimmy Collier's compassion, creativity, and generosity.
Visit with a President
Mary Whyte, a member of the SCOPE50 Board of Directors and an internationally known artist,  recently received a surprise note in her mail – a handwritten note from former President George W. Bush, inviting her to meet with him in Dallas.  The following article appeared in the local Seabrook Island newspaper describing her visit with President Bush.
"Mary had sent the former president a book of an art exhibit of hers, titled Working South after she saw his book, Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief's Tribute to America's Warriors, which contained 66 portraits of military veterans who had been wounded.  The president had painted head and shoulder portraits of the veterans and wrote about each one.  Mary was moved by his book and wrote to the president wishing him well in his endeavors.  She hadn't expected to hear back from him, so his return note came as a great surprise.  His note said, "Dear Mary, you've picked the hardest medium, watercolors.  Next time you're in Dallas let's talk 'art.'" He enclosed the card and telephone number of his personal assistant.
Mary called the assistant and they proceeded to pick a day when a visit would be possible.  The assistant helped Mary get a hotel room in Dallas close to the Presidential Library.  Mary had to be vetted to get through security. Mary called the assistant before she left, asking what the appropriate dress would be.  The assistant let her know the president would be in a suit as he had appointments later in the day.  Mary wore a navy blue suit, with a rhinestone pin depicting the American flag. 
George W. Bush has a Presidential Library and Museum located on the campus of Southern Methodist University.  Mary was able to walk to the library from her hotel, and she was met by the Assistant to the Chief of Staff and was escorted to former-President Bush's office, which is nicely decorated with some antique furniture, plus paintings mostly by Texas artists.  Coffee appeared immediately and the conversation centered primarily on painting. Bush asked how long she had been painting, what artists she admired most, which ones had the most effect on her work. They asked each other what paintings they were working on at the moment.  They talked about Winston Churchill who had taken up painting during his career as a politician and written a book called Painting as a Pastime.   President Bush mentioned to Mary that he had tried watercolors but couldn't master it.  When Mary mentioned that she would be in Dallas in the future teaching a course on watercolors, Bush said, "Let's get together and paint."  He gave her a copy of his book, which he signed: "From one artist to a really fine artist."  Mary took a picture of the autographed page putting her pin of the American flag in the upper corner."
Rise Up: The Movement that Changed America
It was brought to our attention that Jim Keck, one of our SCOPE50 members, appears in the documentary, Rise Up: The Movement that Changed America, which aired on the History Channel on April 4, 2018.  Jim, who worked for SCLC in Chicago, came to our 50th reunion with his son Jason in 2015.
Events in Northern California
SCOPE50 will have a presence at two events taking place in California this summer – one in San Francisco and the other in Antioch.  Joseph "Rugsy" Ruggiero is organizing these two events.  We will have a table at both of these events, and Sherie Labedis, one of SCOPE50's board members, will be a featured speaker at the San Francisco event. 
In Memorium
Dr. Rita Jackson Samuels, a longtime SCLC staff member, died on March 27 at the age of 72.  She worked with the Rev. Fred Bennett on the Operation Breadbasket project out of SCLC's national headquarters before it was taken over by Jesse Jackson.  She was one of the few women on SCLC's staff back in the 60's and, according to the Atlanta Constitution, became the first black woman in Georgia's history to serve on the personal staff of a Georgia Governor during Governor Jimmy Carter's tenure and later under President Carter's Administration as a staff consultant.  She was the founder and Executive Director of the Georgia Coalition of Black Women, Inc. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

SCOPE50 Newsletter - September 2016

              SCOPE50 News                     
The Fight is Not Over!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           September 2016

Early Voting Begins
Early voting began last week in North Carolina.  A number of states offer the opportunity for voters to cast a ballot before Election Day.  This can be done in three different ways.  (1) Early voting: In 37 states and D.C. qualified voters may cast a ballot in person during a designated period prior to Election Day. No excuse or justification is required.  (2) Absentee voting:  In 27 states and D.C., any qualified voter is permitted to vote absentee without offering an excuse.  In 20 states, an excuse is required in order to vote absentee.  (3) Mail voting.  Three states mail ballots to all eligible voters for every election.  Other states may provide this option for some types of elections.  It is important that you check your state requirements, because they differ from state to state.  For example, in North Carolina people can vote early during a certain period of time.  Whereas South Carolina may not have early voting, but it does have absentee voting where people can vote an absentee ballot in person if they meet certain qualifications. 
As we know, some states – mostly in the South – have put up obstacles which make it more difficult for people, particularly minorities, to vote.   Following are some excerpts from a statement that Congressman John Lewis recently made:  "Voting rights are under attack in America.  Quietly, gradually, state-by-state, the right to vote – a right that many people died to secure – is being taken away.  Today, we should be making it easy, simple, and convenient to vote.  Instead, legislatures around the nation are creating barriers and making it more difficult for citizens to vote.  There is not just one law, but many types of laws that are disenfranchising millions of voters:  voter photo identification laws, proof of citizenship laws, barriers to registration, elimination of early voting and absentee voting, and laws making it harder to restore voting rights for people who have paid their debt to society.  These laws are a barrier to an inclusive democracy.  We are stepping backward toward another dark time in our history.  We cannot separate the dangerous trend across this nation from our history and the struggle for the right to vote.  Before the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, not so very long ago, it was almost impossible for some citizens to register and vote.  Many were harassed, jailed, beaten, and some were even killed for trying to participate in the democratic process.  The vote is the most powerful, non-violent tool we have in a democratic society.  We must not allow the power of the vote to be neutralized.  We must never go back."
During the last few weeks there have been some victories as appellate courts have struck down some of these laws.  In South Carolina we are going into high schools and registering junior and senior high school students and giving them the information they need to vote.  Please let us know what you are doing in your states so that we can share it with the SCOPE50 folks.

Boots on the Ground
SCOPE50 has boots on the ground in a few states in the South.  We are in Alabama, South Carolina and we hope to soon be in southern North Carolina.  We also have boots on the ground in Rhode Island.   We are looking to expand voter registration and the get-out-the-vote effort as we partner with other organizations.  For example, in South Carolina we have partnered with the Charleston County Library, and we hope to do this in Beaufort and Dorchester counties as well.  In Rhode Island we have partnered with the American Baptist Churches of Rhode Island, which has shared the following with all their churches. years ago the Summer   Community  Organization for Political Education (SCOPE) program was envisioned and championed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a means to encourage people of good will to travel to the South and help register African-Americans to vote. Hundreds of volunteers from around the country answered Dr. King's call. Remembering that powerful movement, SCOPE50 is a renewed opportunity to band together to promote and encourage voter registration nationally.
Rev. John Reynolds, retired ABC minister, who previously pastored in Rhode Island writes to invite American Baptists in Rhode Island to participate in this grassroots "get out the vote" effort.  For more information on SCOPE50, click here.  
We are also in discussion with other faith groups.  Let us know what you are doing. 
SCOPE50 Public Service Announcement
A 30-second PSA will be going out this week to nationally syndicated radio programs, such as the Tom Joyner show, the D. L. Hughley show, and others.  We also plan to target some local stations, such as WVFG-FM ("Your connection to the Blackbelt") in Uniontown, Alabama.  The PSA can be used in your local community to encourage voter registration. 
A copy of the PSA audio file is attached to the e-mail along with this Newsletter. 
"With MLK and the Voting Rights Effort"
Those of you who attended the Reunion last year remember Lanny Kaufer's excellent multimedia presentation.  He has recently turned this into an 8-week course, which is offered by Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a branch of the Extended University of Cal State University, Channel Islands.

Course Description: "In 1965 soon after the Selma to Montgomery March, college freshman Lanny Kaufer, imbued both with confidence and naiveté, volunteered as a foot soldier in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Voting Rights Campaign known as the Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) Project. This teacher-songwriter-musician-activist will present a multimedia account of his experiences in the SCOPE voter registration civil rights initiative, providing an historical context of the Civil Rights Movement before, during, and following the tumultuous 1960s."  To learn more, visit Lanny's website:
(Thanks to all of you for letting me know what you are doing to spread the word.  Please continue to send me information that can be shared with other SCOPE50 folks.)
T-shirts now available
The SCOPE50 t-shirts are now available  (see next page) and can  be ordered from me.  The price is $15.00.  Let me know how many shirts you want, and the sizes.  Your check should be made out to SCOPE50 and mailed to 773 Spinnaker Beachhouse, Seabrook Island, SC  29455.  This is just another way that we can earn a little money.
SCOPE50 T-shirt.jpg


SCOPE50 Newsletter - February 2017

              SCOPE50 News                     
The Fight is Not Over!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            February 2017

Women's March on Washington
Jo Freeman participated in and took photos of the Women's March on Washington, along with inaugural and pre-inaugural protests.  Her stories, plus lots of photos, can be seen at:
The third URL is the Women's March.  It begins:
"Dear Mr. Trump:
I just returned from the Million Women's March on Washington, one of 673 that took place around the world today.  I want to thank you for making this possible.  It was your "locker room talk" that gave us the kick in the pants we needed to get off our asses.  Women and the men who support us have been complacent far too long.  Thanks to you, we now know that was a mistake."
SCOPE50 stands in support of all of the protests that have been taking place since January 20, particularly the Women's March.  We also stand in support of those who advocated for refugees in airports across the country.  We will be partnering with some of these organizations going forward, so we will be on the front lines and will be on the right side of history.

Report from Joseph Ruggiero, Antioch, California
In January 2016 we launched a voter registration drive.  Jennifer Westerman and I had been part of the SCOPE project 52 years ago.  We were able to get four activists involved, and we registered at least 700 people.  We began monthly meetings in September 2016 with eight people showing up.  Next week our monthly meeting will have 20-30 people.  In March we will have our first event with a group of 100-125 in attendance.  We want a united front of Labor and the Democratic Party.  In our monthly newsletter we list other groups' activities, especially Planned Parenthood.  We now have seven activists involved. 
Dr. King once said "Education is the key."  We have four books about the Movement which our group distributes to spread the word.  We also distribute the SCOPE50 t-shirts.  "The Freedom train is coming" – let's get on board!
Our group has developed three rules:  (1) You must be NON-VIOLENT.  (2) You must work for social change.  (3) We never assign tasks – we ask because we want people to work for whatever their passion is.  At our next meeting, a fourth rule will be proposed:  Get people's phone numbers or e-mail so they can be contacted about events.

SCOPE E-book
We still need chapters for the ebook on SCOPE.  Until we have enough chapters for a book, we will post them to  So far, the only one that is publishable is Bruce Miroff's story of the Charleston, SC project.  Check it out for a model of how to write the story of your own county.  Some of you have written first drafts but not final drafts.  Some have only promised.  Get them in.  Jo Freeman is acting as book editor.  Send them to her at (one of her many e-mail addresses).

The Penn Center
A few days before President Obama left office, he established in Beaufort County, South Carolina, the country's first national monument to the Reconstruction era.  The monument designation covers historic sites around St. Helena Island, including the Penn Center, which has a long history of supporting the black community, first as the South's first educational institution for former slaves and then during the Civil Rights Movement as a place where SCLC conducted training and planned for new campaigns and where Dr. King often went to write. 
Also included is the Brick Baptist Church, adjacent to the Penn Center, which was built in 1855 by slaves who were relegated to its balcony out of the sight and presence of white worshipers.  After the Civil War Battle of Port Royal in 1861, slaves assumed control over the church. 
Downtown Beaufort will be featured in the recognition since Reconstruction had some of its earliest and most significant impacts in Beaufort County, South Carolina.  Also recognized is the Camp Saxton Site in Port Royal where on January 1, 1863, Union General Rufus Saxton assembled 3,000 slaves from the surrounding Sea Islands to read the Emancipation Proclamation.  It was the first reading in the South.
At the same time, President Obama established monuments to the civil rights movement in Birmingham, Alabama, and to the 1960s Freedom Riders in Anniston, Alabama.  In a statement, President Obama said, "I am designating new national monuments that preserve critical chapters of our country's history, from the Civil War to the civil rights movement.  These stories are part of our shared history."
The President's Proclamation also contains the fascinating story of Robert Smalls, the most influential African American politician in South Carolina during the Reconstruction Era.  Smalls was born in Beaufort in 1839.  At the age of twelve, he was hired out by his owner to work in Charleston, where he learned to sail, rig, and pilot ships. 
In 1862, Smalls navigated the CSS Planter, a Confederate ship, through Charleston harbor, past the guns of Fort Sumter, and turned it over to Union forces.  This courageous escape made him an instant hero for the Union, and he soon began working as a pilot for the U. S. Navy.  Smalls and his family used prize money awarded for the Planter to purchase the house in Beaufort once owned by the family that had owned him. 
Smalls was elected to the South Carolina General Assembly from 1868 to 1874.  In 1874 Smalls was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives, where he served five terms, until South Carolina voters ratified a new constitution that effectively eliminated African Americans from electoral politics and codified racial segregation in law for decades to come.

Albert Turner
The nomination of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General has brought back into focus the treatment of Albert Turner and his wife Evelyn in 1985.  Albert Turner worked as Field Secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  In later years he was a leader in Perry County.  Turner helped to organize the Selma to Montgomery march and was a participant on Bloody Sunday.  Albert Turner and his wife were true freedom fighters during that period.        Mrs. Turner is still fighting today.
Albert and Evelyn Turner and other leaders of neighboring counties in Alabama were indicted by the Department of Justice in 1985, charging them with various types of voter fraud, mostly having to do with marking absentee ballots. 
In a piece written by Jo Freeman:  "The Justice Department spent a lot of taxpayer money trying to convict eight blacks for doing 'normal' politics when done by whites.  U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions was the one who tried Albert Turner, his wife, and one other worker in federal court.  Fortunately, a lot had changed in 20 years.  For one thing, juries were no longer composed strictly of white men.  The judge threw out most of the charges and a jury of seven blacks and five whites acquitted the three on all charges.  They too saw 'normal politics' in what the three were charged with."
In addition to the confirmation of Sessions as Attorney General, Jo warns that particular attention should be paid to whom Sessions chooses to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice; this position also has to be confirmed by the Senate.

Donations to SCOPE 50
In the last Newsletter we mentioned that SCOPE50 will accept any donations that people wish to make, no matter how small.  And since we are a 501(c)3, non-profit organization, donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.  To make it even easier, we are now set up for donations to be made on our website,   There is a "donate" button on the top right of the page, and donations will go directly into the SCOPE50 bank account.

SCOPE50 is in need of someone to help search for and write grants as we go forward during the year.  So far John Reynolds has been doing this on SCOPE50's behalf.  We now have a Grant Management tool to help us to put together proposals.  If someone is willing to work on this, they can use this tool as well.  Please e-mail John ( if you are interested in helping with this.

West Hunter Street Baptist Church
Founded in 1881 as Mount Calvary Baptist Church, the congregation moved in 1906 to a Gothic Revival stone sanctuary on West Hunter Street in Atlanta, Georgia. 
Throughout the modern civil rights movement, the church served as a headquarters for many civil rights workers and organizations.  The Rev. Ralph David Abernathy served as pastor of the church from 1961 until his death in 1990.   While pastoring West Hunter, Dr. Abernathy continued his work as a civil rights activist. 
Subsequent to Dr. King's passing in 1968, Dr. Abernathy took over as President of SCLC and carried forth national initiatives such as Operation Breadbasket and the Poor People's Campaign.  Through-out his life, Dr. Abernathy organized economic justice and labor initiatives as well as served as a peace negotiator during times of national social conflict, such as the 1973 siege at Wounded Knee.
Following the congregation's relocation in 1973, the building continued to be used as a site for community development and civil rights programs.  Hosea Williams used the site as the home office for his Feed the Hungry Program during the late 1970s.  Today the site is owned and maintained by the Ralph D. Abernathy III, Inc., a non-profit developed to preserve the cultural history of the site and surrounding community, and the legacy of Rev. Abernathy.
Congress has passed a law, directing the National Park Service (NPS) to conduct a Special Resource Study to determine whether West Hunter Street Baptist Church meets the criteria for inclusion in the national park system and to make recommendations to the Secretary of Interior, which would then forward the recommendation to Congress.  The criteria includes the significance of the site, its suitability, feasibility, and need for NPS management.
As part of the study, the NPS hosted two public information meetings (on February 2 and February 9) to provide the public an opportunity to learn about the study process, ask questions, speak with national park staff, and share information for the study.  Anyone wishing to submit comments or get further information should go to or email  If people are interested in doing an oral history with the National Park Service about West Hunter Street Baptist Church and/or SCOPE, please contact John Reynolds (   He is in contact with the National Park Service about this.  The oral histories can be done over the phone.

SCOPE50 Facebook page
SCOPE50 logo.jpegWe announced in the December Newsletter that a SCOPE50 Facebook page had been created.  We encourage you to look for the SCOPE50 page, "like" it, and request to be a Friend.  As we mentioned, you should be careful not to confuse our page with that of the SCOPE Project page, which has no connection to our organization.

The South is Back!   by Jo Freeman
President Trump may be from New York, but if you look at the power positions in the federal government, it's clear that the South is back in the saddle.  Recently the Brookings Institution published a chart showing the percentage of House Committees chaired by southerners since 1956.  It is almost back to where it was when we were working in the South, after being down for decades.  During the civil rights movement over fifty percent of Congressional standing committees were chaired by Southerners. (a bit fewer in the Senate than in the House).  In 1965 (89th Congress) fully two-thirds of the standing committees were chaired by Southerners.  In the last Congress (i.e. through 2016) it was exactly 50 percent in House and 37.5 percent in the Senate.  It will be close to that in the new Congress, though a few Committee chairs remain to be decided. 
What's particularly striking is that over a third of the House chairmen come from Texas!! 
(See chart on page 6)
Over a hundred years ago, the Southern states used disfranchisement to achieve control of Congress.  Keeping the vote small made it easier to be repeatedly re-elected.  Regular re-election increased seniority.  Seniority increased power.  Southern Members of Congress (MCs) used their committee power to keep bills they did not like bottled up so they could never come to a vote.  Domestics and farmworkers were left out of Social Security and Unemployment Insurance to appease Southerners, whose strength on the committees could have kept those bills from becoming laws.  Anything affecting civil rights was particularly subject to delay and demise.  James O. Eastland, the Senator from Mississippi from 1943 to 1978, was chair of the Judiciary Committee from 1956 to 1978.  All appointments to federal judgeships went through his committee. The Department of Justice was subject to its oversight.  He chaired its Subcommittee on Internal Security, which combed the civil rights movement looking for Communists.  Anyone who thinks the feds didn't do enough to support the civil rights movement should keep in mind that Sen. Eastland (among others) was always lurking in the background, carrying a very large stick.
 As the cry is raised about "voter fraud" in the 21th Century, remember that this was one of the rationales for restricting the vote in the 19th Century.  It worked.  The percentage of the voting age population who actually voted in the South reached its nadir in 1924 at only 18.8 percent-- one-third the percentage of the rest of the country.  South Carolina had the lowest voting rate that year at 6.4 percent.  While turn-out rose after the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, it never caught up with the rest of the country.

With the last election, the South is back, only now the Committee chairs are Republicans rather than Democrats.  They are also all white.  In 1965, two Committee chairs were black (from NY and IL).  Seniority no longer opens the doors it did in the 1960s, but it still confers benefits.  Southern Republicans have replaced Southern Democrats as the power brokers in the House and the Senate.  Even the new Cabinet is trending Southern.  Over a third (depending on how you count) of the proposed new Cabinet members spent a major portion of their lives in a Southern state, either as children or adults.  After President Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, he said the Democratic Party has "lost the South for a generation."  In 2017, it's been two generations at least; going on three.  Both parties have changed in the last 50 years; not always for the best.  But Southern power in the federal government has returned.
Vital Stats
This is part of an annual collection and publication of data by the Brookings Institution of Vital Statistics on Congress.  Southern states are defined as the 11 Confederate states, not the 15 former slave states or the 17 legal segregation states.