One Type of Commitment
At the urging of some friends, and because he wanted "something interesting to do" for the summer, John W. Perdew '64 went to Albany, Ga., last June to join the campaign for civil rights spearheaded by the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. A few days after his arrival Perdew was arrested while watching a crowd of demonstrators; he was imprisoned for twenty days, and refused to eat the entire time in protest. After his release Perdew said "I'm getting more militant as I go along," and it was clear that one man's curious interest in the civil rights movement had become a firm, personal commitment.
On August 8 Perdew was again arrested, again on less than substantial evidence, and was charged with incitement to insurrection, a capital offense in the state. Since then he has been incarcerated in the Sumter County jail, while a team of attorneys has worked for his release, and the release of the four other SNCC workers imprisoned with him.
Realistically, Perdew does not face the threat of the death penalty. But local officials in Georgia are determined to seek a heavy sentence for the students as a warning to other civil rights activists in the area.
Such an outrage must be combatted. The immediate problem is to raise money to finance Perdew's costly legal defense and the John W. Perdew Fund is currently conducting a campaign for finances. The Harvard community now has a tangible opportunity to aid the civil rights movement. A contribution to this campaign is one small but important way of helping.
But the case of John Perdew should evoke from us more than a passing interest, and perhaps a few dollars. The social revolution erupting in this nation forces each man to make a decision about his own life. John Perdew's choice, the quality of his commitment, is something each man must confront in his own way.