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Civil Rights Groups Organize Separate Projects for Summer

By Ellen Lake

Last summer, civil rights activity in the South was focussed on Mississippi and the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), a coalition of SNCC, CORE, NAACP, SCLC and other groups. But because several of the organizations were dissatisfied with COFO and because Mississippi was considered sufficiently "improved," the major civil rights groups decided to branch out into other Southern trouble spots. This summer each organization will be operating its separate summer project.


The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is the only major civil rights group with local chapters throughout the South. The organization relies on these, rather than on paid staff members; in Mississippi, for example, it has been Aaron Henry, the president of the state NAACP chapters, not Charles Evers, the NAACP's Mississippi field secretary, who has really led the organization.

The Mississippi branch of the NAACP was one of the four civil rights groups in the COFO coalition (Henry was president of COFO.). But during the summer and increasingly into the winter, the Association became more and more unhappy with what it considered SNCC's domination of COFO. This dissatisfaction went beyond annoyance at playing second fiddle to SNCC, however. The basic disagreement was with SNCC's radicalism. Two weeks ago, the Mississippi branches of the NAACP withdrew from COFO.

Roy Wilkins, national president of the NAACP, took a swipe at COFO last week when he announced his group's summer plans. "This will be a campaign with the NAACP family in charge," he said. "It will be the case of NAACP sponsored workers going to work with our organizations in these states. This will not be strangers coming to Mississippi and moving alone into strange communities."

He announced that his organization would seek 800 to 1200 volunteers to join in voter registration drives in Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina. He added that local NAACP branches throughout the country would take charge of the recruiting and would also be asked to contribute funds to pay the $500,000 tab for the project.

For further information, contact: Helen Todd, NAACP, 451 Massachusetts Ave., Boston.


The Congress of Racial Equality has been so active in the North that people often forget that it is deeply involved in the South. CORE sprang to national attention in 1961 as the organization which sponsored the Freedom Rides and the first national group to organize sit-ins.

As these two projects show, CORE stresses direct action and has formed more local direct action projects than any other organization, except perhaps SNCC. In may ways, in fact, the two groups form an alliance; their workers are younger and angrier than those in the NAACP and SCLC and they are often impatient with compromises and lengthy court actions. Increasingly CORE and SNCC workers are coming to regard nonviolence as a tactic rather than a philosophy.

Unlike the NAACP and SCLC, which contributed few or no workers to the staff of the Mississippi Summer Project, CORE had control of one of the five Congressional districts in Mississippi, and worked side by side with SNCC in organizing the state-wide Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

In addition to its recent Mississippi work, CORE has been concentrating its efforts in Louisiana and the Carolinas, where it has had projects for over three years. CORE's biggest effort this Summer will be in Louisiana, for which it is seeking 250 volunteers to set up offices in 12 to 15 counties. The workers will organize freedom schools and community centers, like those in Mississippi last summer, as well as doing voter registration.

The South Carolina project, which will concentrate largely on voter registration, will be aimed at defeating Senator Strom Thurmond (R.S.C.) in 1966. Here CORE wants only 35 volunteers, who will work in three Congressional districts. Another 20 volunteers will join University of Florida students and local Negroes in a project in Northern Florida which began in January, 1964.

CORE has 50 paid staff workers in the South (who will direct the projects), but all the volunteers are expected to be self-supporting. (Organization officials estimate that a worker should expect to spend between $15 and $25 per week.) The entire summer should cost CORE, currently $75,000 in debt, about $70,000. An orientation session for all volunteers is planned for June 10 through 15, in Baton Rouge, La.

For further information and appli- cations, contact: CORE, 2209 Dryades St., New Orleans, La.


The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee emphasizes that local people, rather than civil rights workers, must make the decisions for the movement. But SNCC is distrustful of the established Negro leadership--the ministers, school principals and professionals--and when SNCC moves into a new area, it seeks to discover and develop grass-roots leaders who will challenge the conservatives. Fannie Lou Hamer, for example, a leader of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, used to be a sharecropper.

The MFDP itself is a product of SNCC's belief in the necessity for basic changes in the society. Instead of just organizing locally, SNCC helped to build a state-wide third party, which would provide a liberal alternative to the rigid segregationist policies of both major parties in Mississippi. Currently the MFDP is challenging the recent Congressional elections in Mississippi.

Because of its desire to keep control of the movement in the hands of local leaders, SNCC is not renewing the massive Summer Project, which last year brought nearly 1000 workers to the state. Instead, it will concentrate on the Congressional challenge, and will recruit between 1000 and 2000 volunteers to lobby in Washington, D.C., during the last two weeks of June.

After that, some of the volunteers will probably remain in Washington, doing community organizing and working for home rule. Many of the others--perhaps 500 in all--will head south, about 400 to Mississippi, 50 to Arkansas, and a handful to projects in Southwest Georgia, Alabama, and Cambridge, Md. Details on the exact nature of each project and the number of volunteers needed are still vague, and are now being worked out by "people's conventions," meetings of local Negroes in each area. Most projects will probably include community centers, freedom schools, and voter registration drives.

Although lobbying for the challenge is open to all, students who were in Mississippi last summer will receive preference in going south later. All volunteers will be expected to be self-supporting. For further information, applications, and interviews, contact: SNCC 1555 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge.


Until recently the Southern Christian Leadership Conference had never recruited outside volunteers; Martin Luther King, Jr., its dynamic chief, and his several dozen staff members have led local Negroes in some Southern cities in brief but dramatic campaigns, aimed usually at integrating accommodations.

But prodded by the gains of the Mississippi Project, SCLC is planning a ten-week summer program this year which may transform the organization. Its Summer Community Organization and Political Education Project (SCOPE) aims to send some 600 volunteers into about 70 rural Black Belt and urban counties in Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida to conduct programs in voter registration, adult literacy, and political education.

The volunteers will work in small teams, cooperating closely with existing local Negro civic improvement associations. At the moment, SCLC is trying to recruit about 250 fulltime staff members to help direct the program, but it appears likely that many projects will lack such guidance. A five-day orientation program will begin June 14. Volunteers are expected to support themselves.

Despite the broadening of its program, SCLC will probably remain divided on many ideological issues from groups like SNCC and CORE. Because of its own composition, for example, (a large number of the present staff are ministers) SCLC relies heavily on local clergymen as leaders, even though it recognizes that they may be conservative and may slow down their more radical followers.

While speaking at Winthrop House Saturday, SCOPE director Hosea Williams explained why SCLC had cancelled Ala. "The people were ready I decided not to march because you can't go faster than the local leadership. The SNCC kids said that leaders would come out of the people, but I couldn't take that gamble."

Furthermore, SCLC does not think it necessary to organize a third political party, like the MFDP, believing that a county organization but the ministers were enough. "We're not interested whether they vote Democratic or publican," Williams said Saturday. "Myself, I just vote for who ever is ahead in civil rights."

For further information, contact: SCOPE Project, SCLC, 334 Ave, NE, Atlanta, Georgia

Furthermore, SCLC does not think it necessary to organize a third political party, like the MFDP, believing that a county organization but the ministers were enough. "We're not interested whether they vote Democratic or publican," Williams said Saturday. "Myself, I just vote for who ever is ahead in civil rights."

For further information, contact: SCOPE Project, SCLC, 334 Ave, NE, Atlanta, Georgia

For further information, contact: SCOPE Project, SCLC, 334 Ave, NE, Atlanta, Georgia

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