Mobs, Vigilantes, Cops, and Feds: The Repression of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

by Martin Oppenheimer

1. Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1981) p. 298.

2. A cadre organization consists of members who make a maximum commitment to the cause, often as full-time workers, as distinct from a general membership organization where the level of commitment by most members is minimal or temporary.

3. Counterintelligence Program: "This program has as its objective the neutralization of black extremist groups, the prevention of violence by these groups and the prevention of coalition of black extremist organizations." FBI Memorandum, reprinted in Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall, Agents of Repression: The FBI’s Secret War Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement (South End Press, 1988), p. 38. Neutralization meant, according to Hoover, efforts to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" groups including the Deacons for Defense and Justice, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), SNCC, and even Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), plus others such as the Nation of Islam. Tactics included collaborating with local police forces to arrest local leaders "on every possible charge" and to make efforts to discredit these groups in the eyes of the "responsible Negro community." (Carson, pp. 262-263.)

4. The sit-ins were a strategy in which groups of blacks, mainly students, would occupy seats in restaurants and in the eating sections of department stores such as Woolworth’s that did not serve black people, and ask to be served. When ordered to leave they would not, until closing time. They would return the following days until, it was hoped, the policy would change. Similar strategies were used to challenge segregation in other facilities such as "white" churches, public swimming pools, libraries, and amusement parks.

5. James Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries (Seattle, WA: U. of Washington Press, 1997), p. 274.

6. For the full story, see William Doyle, An American Insurrection (N.Y., NY: Anchor, 2003).

7. For example: "Whenever the President considers that unlawful obstruction…or rebellion against the authority of the United States makes it impossible to enforce the laws of the United States…by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, he may call into Federal service…and use such of the armed forces as he considers necessary to enforce those laws or to suppress the rebellion." In Len Holt, The Summer That Didn’t End: The Story of the Mississippi Civil Rights Project of 1964 (N.Y., NY: William Morrow, 1965) and (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 1992).

8. James Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries (Seattle, WA: U. of Washington Press), p. 470.

9. Cleveland Sellers, The River of No Return (Jackson, MS: Univ. Press of Mississippi, 1990) p. 258. Sellers started writing this book while serving seven months in jail after being shot, then arrested on multiple charges following the 1968 "Orangeburg Massacre" incident.

10. In Leslie G. Kelen (ed.), This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement (Jackson, MS: Univ. Press of Miss.), p. 14.

11. Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward, Poor People’s Movements (N.Y., NY: Vintage, 1977), ch. 4.