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The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Arkansas

Edited by Jennifer Jensen Wallach and John A. Kirk

Publication Year: 2011

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) arrived in Arkansas in October 1962 at the request of the Arkansas Council on Human Relations, the state affiliate of the Southern Regional Council. SNCC efforts began with Bill Hansen, a young white Ohioan—already a veteran of the civil rights movement—who traveled to Little Rock in the early sixties to help stimulate student sit-in movements promoting desegregation. Thanks in large part to SNCC’s bold initiatives, most of Little Rock’s public and private facilities were desegregated by 1963, and in the years that followed many more SNCC volunteers rushed to the state to set up projects across the Arkansas Delta to help empower local people to take a stand against racial discrimination. In the five short years before it disbanded, SNCC’s Arkansas Project played a pivotal part in transforming the state, yet this fascinating branch of the national organization has barely garnered a footnote in the history of the civil rights movement. This collection serves as a corrective by bringing articles on SNCC’s activities in Arkansas together for the first time, by providing powerful firsthand testimonies, and by collecting key historical documents from SNCC’s role in the region’s emergence from the slough of southern injustice.

Published by: University of Arkansas Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Note on the Title

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv


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1. The Origins of SNCC in Arkansas: Little Rock, Lupper, and the Law

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pp. 3-22

On February 1, 1960, four African American students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro—Ezell A. Blair, Franklin McCain, David Richmond, and Joseph McNeil—shopped for school supplies at their local F. W. Woolworth’s store. After making their purchases, McCain and McNeil went over to the lunch counter...

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2. In the Storm: William Hansen and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Arkansas, 1962–1967

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pp. 23-34

Stuck inside a cell in Albany, Georgia, in July 1962, civil rights activist William Hansen was having trouble meeting with his attorney. He had been arrested for participating in a demonstration, but when the attorney, C. B. King, insisted on seeing his client, Dougherty County sheriff “Cull” Campbell became enraged. “Nigger, haven’t I told you to wait outside?” he said.1 Campbell then picked up a cane and began...

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3. “It Was the Wrong Time, and They Just Weren’t Ready”: Direct-Action Protest in Pine Bluff, 1963

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pp. 35-53

Whether by design or fate, the first sit-in conducted by the Pine Bluff Student Movement (PBSM) occurred on February 1, 1963, the first day of Black History Month, established thirty-seven years earlier, as well as the third anniversary of the Greensboro, North Carolina, student sit-in. Thirteen students of Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal College (AM&N) entered the F. W. Woolworth store in downtown...

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4. Crossing the White Line: SNCC in Three Delta Towns, 1963–1967

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pp. 54-68

In November 1965, the red lights of a Gould, Arkansas, police car pulled over a vehicle driven by Dwight Williams, a black activist accompanied by a white female. The constable charged Williams with “crossing the white line.” Although describing a driving infraction, the phrase could also have referred to the repeated violations of racial etiquette that occurred in Arkansas in the 1960s. In that decade, black and white Arkansans witnessed the dismantling of Jim Crow...

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5. Replicating History in a Bad Way? White Activists and Black Power in SNCC’s Arkansas Project

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pp. 69-84

Stokley Carmichael, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Com - mittee from 1966 to 1967, derided what he viewed as the “media-driven” version of the civil rights organization’s history, which suggested that “SNCC began as an ‘integrated’ group devoted to a mystical Christian vision of a communal ‘beloved society’ before the rise of an intolerant ‘black nationalism’ ruined this interracial Eden...


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6. Arkansas Daze

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pp. 87-100

I first came to Arkansas in October 1962. I was twenty-three years old.1 With more than a little trepidation I drove alone from Atlanta across Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi in a battered 1954 Pontiac. What was I getting myself into? I knew nothing about Arkansas except for the lurid headlines and TV news I had seen half a decade earlier as a teenager in Cincinnati...

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7. Excerpts from an Interview with Jim Jones

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pp. 101-106

WRIGHT. This is Robert Wright . . . The date is October 15, 1970. I am in Atlanta, Georgia, interviewing Mr. Jim Jones or James Jones . . . a former head of SNCC in Arkansas. Okay, Jimmie, I thought we could start off by getting some of your personal background like where you were born, where you are from, where you went to school, and how you first got involved with Arkansas SNCC...

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8. Arkansas Roots and Consciousness

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pp. 107-114

The historic oppression of black people was the central domestic issue facing the United States during my youth. The resulting civil rights movement began to capture the attention of all Americans and many people around the world. As a young man I became a part of this movement, which shaped the rest of my life...

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9. Maeby Civil Rights

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pp. 115-125

Indoor plumbing was the last significant change in Maeby, Arkansas, before 1964. Until then most colored folks kept outhouses, pigs, chickens, cows, and whatever else in their backyard. Whites threatened to tear down their restrooms and take ownership of their farm animals for years, but nothing ever happened. Finally, the city council passed ordinances...

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10. Excerpts from an Interview with Bob Cableton

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pp. 126-131

It was early February 1960. I was a first-year student at Wellesley College, an elite women’s school in a suburb of Boston. I had accepted an offer to enroll because I thought it would challenge me academically and provide a welcome change from the segregated environment of my childhood in Hampton and Newport News, Virginia...

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11. Lessons from SNCC—Arkansas 1965

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pp. 132-138

It was early February 1960. I was a first-year student at Wellesley College, an elite women’s school in a suburb of Boston. I had accepted an offer to enroll because I thought it would challenge me academically and provide a welcome change from the segregated environment of my childhood in Hampton and Newport News, Virginia...

Image Plates

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p. 139-139

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12. An E-mail Interview with Tim Janke

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pp. 139-141

WALLACH. What were you doing before you joined the Arkansas Project? JANKE. I had just finished my sophomore year at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, in May 1965. WALLACH. Why did you choose to go to Arkansas? JANKE. A college friend of mine had just been accepted to work with SNCC in Macon, Georgia, and shared his excitement about it. He gave me the information necessary to apply to SNCC, and I was accepted for an opening in Arkansas. WALLACH. How long where you...

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13. An Interview with Millard “Tex” Lowe

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pp. 142-147

WALLACH. When and where you were born? LOWE. I was born in Texas, and I went to Texas Southern University. I left in my senior year after this black history conference. We had a lot of folk who came down, namely John Lewis, Stokely [Carmichael], Ron Karenga, Amiri Baraka, James Farmer, Martin Luther King, Jesse [Jackson] . . . This was back in 1964, the latter part...

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14. Arkansas SNCC Memories

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pp. 148-154

Forty-four years have passed since I worked in Arkansas SNCC. I carry the experience with me daily, but trying to put myself back into what it was really like has been both difficult and very rewarding. I have tried to be as truthful as my selective, faulty sixty-five-year-old memory will allow...

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15. An Interview with Gertrude Jackson

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pp. 155-159

WALLACH. How did you get involved with the civil rights movement? JACKSON. I guess the first thing I was going to tell you about was the Turner school boycott . . . My husband was the one who started the boycott, and we all worked together with that . . . There was a school in each community, which were twelve communities. So they decided to bring about five of those schools together and build...

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16. My Arkansas Journey

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pp. 160-165

This is a story of how the experience of working in the civil rights movement of the 1960s completely transformed the life of a Jewish girl from Boston. I worked for SNCC in Arkansas for fifteen months in 1964 and 1965. Although this was a short period of time, its impact was profound and is still with me, nearly forty-five years later. This journey actually began seven years earlier, fittingly enough, with a triggering event...

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17. The Civil Rights Movement in Pine Bluff

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pp. 166-174

SNCC was born out of a student cry from a people who demanded that freedom and inequality was long overdue and out of a need to challenge man’s inhumanity towards his fellow man . . . Late in the summer of 1962, two young field representatives from SNCC’s headquarters came to our town . . . The representatives were a young black man by the name of Jim Jones and William (Bill) Hansen, who was white...


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18. “Up Against the Obstacles” (1960)

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pp. 177-178

The spirit reached the boiling point at 11:00 a.m., March 10, 1960. It was on this day that the students of Philander Smith College cast their lots into the New Student Movement. The initial movement was impulsive in nature; however, organization began shortly there after...

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19. “The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee”

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pp. 179-181

The Arkansas Project of SNCC was not firmly established until October, 1962. As early as March, 1960, students at Philander Smith College, stimulated by the news of the sit-ins and encouraged by the NAACP, sat in at lunch counters on Main Street. Sit-ins were resumed in November of the same year, led by dedicated and courageous students...

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20. “Field Report, Pine Bluff, Arkansas” (1963)

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pp. 182-185

Saturday the effectiveness of the boycott became readily apparent. We had many people downtown picketing and handing out flyers asking the people not to buy downtown or at the Jefferson Square Shopping . . . Many people made comments concerning the obvious lack of Negro customers and shoppers downtown...

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21. Press Releases: “Students Attacked with Ammonia in Pine Bluff” (1963) and “Pine Bluff Movies, Schools, Park Open to All” (1963)

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pp. 186-188

PINE BLUFF, ARKANSAS, JULY 29-—Three students and a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee required medical attention here yesterday after they were attacked by whites throwing ammonia and bottles at them. The students, members of the Pine Bluff Movement, had been staging a sit-in at McDonald’s...

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22. Letter to Ruthie Hansen from Bill Hansen (1964)

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pp. 189-190

Dear Ruthie, I loved hearing your sexy voice last night. At least I can go to bed remembering what your voice sounds like. When your not here and I don’t see you for awhile it gets to the point that I don’t even remember...

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23. “Field Report, Phillips, Monroe, Arkansas and Lee Counties”

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pp. 191-193

26 Senatorial District (Phillips, Monroe, Arkansas and Lee Counties) To: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee From: James O. Jones, Joseph Wright, Larry Segel and Thomas Allen RE: work in Phillips County from July 18 through July 21st...

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24. “Annual Report” (1964)

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pp. 194-201

Arkansas has a total population of almost 1.8 million people of which around 420,000 are nonwhite. The nonwhites account for about twentyfive percent of the state’s total population. The largest city and the capital is Little Rock with a population of 140,000. Arkansas ranks 49th, ahead of only Mississippi, in all aspects of life that point to a good standard of living...

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25. “Hansen Resigns SNCC Post; Says Negroes Should Lead But He’ll Stay as Adviser” (1964)

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pp. 202-204

PINE BLUFF—William W. Hansen Jr. announced his resignation Tuesday as director of the Arkansas project of the Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee because he believes the group should be led by Negroes. Hansen, 25, a white man, said that James Jones, 21, a Negro and native of Willisville (Nevada County), had been named acting project director. Jones is expected to be appointed as Hansen’s successor...

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26. An Open Letter from Representatives of the Forrest City (Arkansas) Movement (1965)

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pp. 205-209

Approximately two weeks before school was to start a group of Lincoln High students assembled at Forrest City Freedom Center to discuss the development of a group to represent students and seek change in the school. Out of this first meeting came the Students for Action Committee (S.A.C.). Officers were elected and the group was set up to function...

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27. Ozell Sutton v. Capitol Club, Inc. (1965)

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pp. 210-212

Ozell Sutton, a Negro citizen of Arkansas, has brought this suit in equity to put an end to alleged racial discrimination in the cafeteria facilities located in the basement of the Arkansas State Capitol. The defendent, Capitol Club, Inc., an Arkansas non-profit corporation, holds a lease on the facilities executed in July 1964 by the so-called Capitol Building...

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28. Letter to Arkansas Summer Project Applicant (1965)

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pp. 214-215

The Arkansas Project of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee will be sponsoring a Summer Project in Arkansas this year. The main purpose of the project is to develop local leadership and community organizations throughout the black belt areas...

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29. Letter to Collin Minert from James O. Jones (1965)

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pp. 216-217

Dear Collin, We are pleased to inform you that our staff has approved your application and would like you to work with us this summer in Arkansas. As you know, the summer program will run roughly from June 5 to September 1. If you can come earlier, please let us know and we will be glad to have you...

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30. “What to Bring with You” and “Orientation Schedule” (1965)

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pp. 218-219

Bring an absolute minimum amount of clothing. The weather in Arkansas all summer is very hot and humid (temperature ranges between 85 and 100 in most places and the evenings don’t get much cooler). You may want to bring a hat. Bring casual clothes. Bring at least one or two outfits you can wear to church or to meetings...

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31. “82% Negro; 100% White” (1965)

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pp. 220-223

Gould is a town like ‘most any other town in Southeast Arkansas. Look to your right and you are in typical small town America. The main street has two or three grocery stores, one general store, the post office, the bank, and the pool hall. City Hall, in the center of town, is one long room which serves as the police headquarters...

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32. Letter to “Dear Friend” from Jim Jones (1965)

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pp. 224-225

Dear Friend, We are including this note with the latest issue of the Arkansas Voice because we need paper for printing the next issue. Each issue is circulated free by SNCC workers to more than 8,000 people. In addition, a small mailing list of about 100 people who live in Arkansas towns in which we don’t work,...

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33. “What We Shall Overcome Means to Me” (1965)

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pp. 226-227

This document, a poem by an eleven-year-old Arkansas girl, demonstrates the role that the Arkansas Voice hoped to play in providing a forum for local activists and citizens to document the activities and ideals of the civil rights movement...

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34. Journal Entry by Mitchell Zimmerman (1965)

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pp. 228-231

For a lot of reasons, not worth going into here, I returned to our state project office here in Little Rock, where I’ll be working on research. But my last days in West Memphis (shades of the last days of Pompeii!) gave me food for one last, long story from the field...

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35. Letter from Rev. Benjamin S. Grinage to John A. Hannah (1966)

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pp. 232-236

In general, black Arkansans had more access to the polls than African Americans in many other parts of the South. However, due to the Arkansas poll tax and to the lack of appealing political candidates, many potential black voters were reluctant to register until the 1960s...

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36. Press Statement: Rev. Ben Grinage (1966)

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pp. 237-239

Press Statement: Rev. Ben Grinage, Ark. State Project Director, S.N.C.C. I am making this statement at this time because of my basic and primary committment to the people of Arkansas with whom I have been working for the past 3 ½ years since I joined the staff of S.N.C.C...

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37. “Black Power—Another Definition” (1966)

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pp. 240-242

To the Editor of the Gazette: The charge of “black racism” is only another attack against the civil rights movement. But it is a very revealing attack because it indicates something that civil rights militants have long known: That when the struggle turned from attacking the symbols of oppression...

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38. “Arkansas Staff Meeting” (1966)

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pp. 243-246

Meeting attended by: Stokely Carmichael, Cleve Sellers, Jim Jones, Ben Grinage, Bob Cableton, Jerry Casey, Howard Himmelbaum, Myrtle Glascoe, Mitchell Zimmerman, Vincent O’Connor, Bill Hansen, Tex Lowe...

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39. “Ex-workers for SNCC Tell Why Group Faded in State” (1967)

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pp. 247-250

Robert Cableton has been convicted in the Mayor’s Court of Gould on charges of obstructing justice, assaulting an officer, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest and public drunkenness....


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pp. 251-276


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pp. 277-278


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pp. 279-287

E-ISBN-13: 9781610754828
E-ISBN-10: 1610754824
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557289667
Print-ISBN-10: 1557289662

Page Count: 225
Illustrations: 31 photographs
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Arkansas -- Race relations -- Sources.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- Arkansas -- History -- 20th century.
  • Arkansas -- Race relations.
  • Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (U.S.) -- Sources.
  • Civil rights movements -- Arkansas -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
  • Civil rights movements -- Arkansas -- History -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- Arkansas -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
  • African Americans -- Segregation -- Arkansas -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
  • African Americans -- Segregation -- Arkansas -- History -- 20th century.
  • Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (U.S.).
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