Indian Hair Report

Selma to Montgomery: But What About SNCC?

In mid-march 1965, six of us from New England colleges showed up at the SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) office in Montgomery, Alabama, on our way to the Selma to Montgomery March. Stokely Carmichael told us, “What are you going to Selma for… we need you here!” So like dutiful soldiers, we went downstairs, dropped off our sleeping bags, and got ready to march downtown to the state house for the right of black people to vote. Opposing us were horsemen with big sticks and motorcycle policemen, with license to beat the hell out of us. As we attempted to move out from the corner of Jackson and High Streets, the horsemen rode into our ranks, whipping anyone and anything within in the radius of their wild swings. People ran, horses reared and crashed down upon those unable to get out of the way. In a few minutes, there were many bloody faces and heads.

SNCC organizer Willie Ricks called it, “The Battle of Montgomery”. This SNCC campaign with local people and college students went largely unnoticed, while Dr. King led thousands of people from Selma to Montgomery. Moviegoers who recently saw Selma will learn nothing about SNCC in Montgomery — and SNCC’s role in Selma was marginalized.

Early Selma

SNCC began organizing in Selma in 1963, invited by the Dallas County Voters League, headed by Amelia and Samuel Boynton. The DCVL began advocating for the right to vote in the1930s. SNCC organizers Bernard and Colia Lafayette set up Citizenship Schools, teaching people to pass literacy tests to get registered. Later that year Worth Long became the Director of the Central Alabama Voter Education Project for SNCC. “When they didn’t have me in jail, I coordinated a staff of 8 people,” Worth said.

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