Cover image for Hands on the freedom plow : personal accounts by women in SNCC
Hands on the freedom plow : personal accounts by women in SNCC
Holsaert, Faith S.
Publication Information:
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, [2010]

Physical Description:
616 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Fifty-two women - northern and southern, young and old, urban and rural, black, white, and Latina - share their courageous personal stories of working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement. The testimonies cover early sit-ins, voter registration campaigns, and Freedom Rides; the 1963 March on Washington, the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the Movements in Alabama and Maryland; Black Power and anti-war activism. --publisher's description.
General Note:
Includes index.
pt. 1. Fighting for my rights : one SNCC woman's experience, 1961-1964 -- pt. 2. Entering troubled waters : sit-ins, the founding of SNCC, and the freedom rides, 1960-1963 -- pt. 3. Movement leaning posts : the heart and soul of the southwest Georgia movement, 1961-1963 -- pt. 4. Standing tall : the southwest Georgia movement, 1962-1963 -- pt. 5. Get on board : the Mississippi movement through the Atlantic City challenge, 1961-1964 -- pt. 6. Cambridge, Maryland : the movement under attack, 1961-1964 -- pt. 7. A sense of family : the National SNCC Office, 1960-1964 -- pt. 8. Fighting another day : the Mississippi movement after Atlantic City, 1964-1966 -- pt. 9. The constant struggle : the Alabama movement, 1963-1966 -- Black power : issues of continuity, change, and personal identity, 1964-1969.
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E185.96 .H24 2010 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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In Hands on the Freedom Plow, fifty-two women--northern and southern, young and old, urban and rural, black, white, and Latina--share their courageous personal stories of working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement. The testimonies gathered here present a sweeping personal history of SNCC: early sit-ins, voter registration campaigns, and freedom rides; the 1963 March on Washington, the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the movements in Alabama and Maryland; and Black Power and antiwar activism. Since the women spent time in the Deep South, many also describe risking their lives through beatings and arrests and witnessing unspeakable violence. These intense stories depict women, many very young, dealing with extreme fear and finding the remarkable strength to survive. The women in SNCC acquired new skills, experienced personal growth, sustained one another, and even had fun in the midst of serious struggle. Readers are privy to their analyses of the Movement, its tactics, strategies, and underlying philosophies. The contributors revisit central debates of the struggle including the role of nonviolence and self-defense, the role of white people in a black-led movement, and the role of women within the Movement and the society at large. Each story reveals how the struggle for social change was formed, supported, and maintained by the women who kept their "hands on the freedom plow." As the editors write in the introduction, "Though the voices are different, they all tell the same story--of women bursting out of constraints, leaving school, leaving their hometowns, meeting new people, talking into the night, laughing, going to jail, being afraid, teaching in Freedom Schools, working in the field, dancing at the Elks Hall, working the WATS line to relay horror story after horror story, telling the press, telling the story, telling the word. And making a difference in this world."

Author Notes

Faith S. Holsaert, Durham, North Carolina, teacher and fiction writer, has remained active in lesbian and women's, antiwar, and justice struggles. Martha Prescod Norman Noonan, community organizer, activist, homemaker, and teacher of history including the civil rights movement, lives near Baltimore. Filmmaker and Movement lecturer Judy Richardson 's projects include the PBS documentary series Eyes on the Prize and other historical documentaries. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Betty Garman Robinson, a community organizer, lives in Baltimore and is active in the reemerging grassroots social justice movement. Jean Smith Young is a child psychiatrist who works with community mental health programs in the Washington, DC area. New York City consultant Dorothy M. Zellner wrote and edited for the Center for Constitutional Rights and CUNY Law School. All of the editors worked for SNCC.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Powerful, inspiring, and tremendously moving, the oral histories collected here highlight the essential role women played as organizers and activists with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the South of the early 1960s. These stories demonstrate the strength and bravery required to stand against repression and brutality in the fight against segregation. Included are the newly gathered personal recollections of more than 50 women, black and white, northern and southern, who describe their participation in events that transformed their lives and also helped change the world. The activists, including high school students, were jailed, beaten, threatened, and treated inhumanely at sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters, on Freedom Rides to challenge segregation on public transportation, and in doing field work to register voters while enduring the oppression and discrimination of Jim Crow laws. Together, the overlapping stories create an indelible portrait of the Civil Rights Movement in Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Maryland where women such as Diane Nash, SNCC's first female field secretary; Joann Christian Mants, an activist who was jailed 17 times by the time she was 16; and many others, worked for social justice. -VERDICT Essential reading for anyone interested in the Civil Rights Movement and crucial for all collections documenting the era.-Donna L. Davey, New York Univ. Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Like a chef carefully dividing an onion, the historiography of the civil rights movement keeps peeling layer after layer away to reveal new, interesting, complex aspects. An invaluable addition is this extensive collection of accounts from 52 women of all races and ethnicities who participated in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the 1960s. One receives a direct sense of the toll participation in the social movement took on each woman, from Diane Nash's fears about miscarrying her child in prison (p. 78) to Cathy Cade's concerns about her father suffering a nervous breakdown (p. 208). Readers also obtain fresh information on usually neglected developments such as the actions undertaken in Albany, Georgia, and the Southwest Georgia Movement during the early 1960s. The book's last section is especially enlightening, as Latinas discuss how being neither African American nor white complicated their involvement in civil rights--for example, Elizabeth (Betita) Sutherland Martinez's account (p. 531-40). A brief, informative synopsis of the woman's life after her participation in SNCC accompanies each account. A supplemental secondary bibliography, however, could have been added. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Researchers/faculty, graduate students, and upper-division undergraduates. J. T. McGuire Tompkins Cortland Community College

Table of Contents

Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons aka Gwendolyn RobinsonAngeline ButlerConstance CurryCasey HaydenMildred Forman PageDebbie Amis BellHellen O'Neal-McCrayJoan Trumpauer MulhollandDiane NashJanie Culbreth RambeauAnnette Jones WhiteBernice Johnson ReagonJoann Christian MantsMcCree L. HarrisRutha Mae HarrisBernice Johnson ReagonCarolyn DanielsPeggy Trotter Dammond PreacelyPrathia HallFaith S. HolsaertCathy CadeJoyce LadnerJeannette KingVictoria Gray AdamsJean Smith YoungMuriel TillinghastDenise NicholasJanet Jemmott MosesGloria Richardson DandridgeJoanne GrantDorothy M. ZellnerJane Bond MooreMary E. KingE. Jeanne Breaker JohnsonJudy RichardsonBetty Garman RobinsonCasey HaydenBarbara Jones OmoladeMargaret HerringPenny PatchElaine DeLott BakerEmmie Schrader AdamsBarbara BrandtDoris A. DerbyAnnie Pearl AveryBettie Mae FikesPrathia HallFay Bellamy PowellMartha Prescod Norman NoonanGloria HouseJean WileyElizabeth (Betita) Sutherland MartinezMarilyn LowenMaria VarelaGwen Patton
Introductionp. 1
Part 1 Fighting for My Rights: One SNCC Woman's Experience, 1961-1964p. 7
From Little Memphis Girl to Mississippi Amazonp. 9
Part 2 Entering Troubled Waters: Sit-ins, the Founding of SNCC, and the Freedom Rides, 1960-1963p. 33
What We Were Talking about Was Our Futurep. 39
An Official Observerp. 45
Onto Open Groundp. 49
Two Variations on Nonviolencep. 53
A Young Communist Joins SNCCp. 55
Watching, Waiting, and Resistingp. 61
Diary of a Freedom Riderp. 67
They Are the Ones Who Got Scaredp. 76
Part 3 Movement Leaning Posts: The Heart and Soul of the Southwest Georgia Movement, 1961-1963p. 85
Ripe for the Pickingp. 91
Finding form for the Expression of My Discontentp. 100
Uncovered and Without Shelter, I Joined This Movement for Freedomp. 119
We Turned this Upside-Down Country Right Side Upp. 128
Everybody Called Me "Teach"p. 140
I Love to Singp. 144
Since I Laid My Burden Downp. 146
We Just Kept Goingp. 152
Part 4 Standing Tall: The Southwest Georgia Movement, 1962-1963p. 157
It Was Simply in My Bloodp. 163
Freedom-Faithp. 172
Resistance Up. 181
Caught in the Middlep. 195
Part 5 Get on Board: The Mississippi Movement through the Atlantic City Challenge, 1961-1964p. 211
Standing Up for Our Beliefsp. 217
Inside and Outside of Two Worldsp. 223
They Didn't Know the Power of Womenp. 230
Do Whatever You Are Big Enough to Dop. 240
Depending on Ourselvesp. 250
A Grand Romantic Notionp. 257
If We Must Diep. 266
Part 6 Cambridge, Maryland: The Movement under Attack, 1961-1964p. 271
The Energy of the People Passing through Mep. 273
Part 7 A Sense of Family: The National SNCC Office, 1960-1964p. 299
Peek around the Mountainp. 303
My Real Vocationp. 311
A SNCC Blue Bookp. 326
Getting Out the Newsp. 332
It's Okay to Fight the Status Quop. 344
SNCC: My Enduring "Circle of Trust"p. 348
Working in the Eye of the Social Movement Stormp. 366
In the Attics of My Mindp. 381
Building a New Worldp. 388
Part 8 Fighting Another Day: The Mississippi Movement after Atlantic City, 1964-1966p. 395
A Simple Questionp. 399
The Mississippi Cotton Votep. 403
The Freedom Struggle was the Flamep. 409
An Interracial Alliance of the Poor: An Elusive Populist Fantasy?p. 417
We Weren't the Bad Guysp. 427
Sometimes in the Ground Troops, Sometimes in the Leadershipp. 436
Part 9 The Constant Struggle: The Alabama Movement, 1963-1966p. 447
There Are No Cowards in My Familyp. 453
Singing for Freedomp. 460
Bloody Selmap. 470
Playtime Is Overp. 473
Captured by the Movementp. 483
We'll Never Turn Backp. 503
Letter to My Adolescent Sonp. 514
Part 10 Black Power: Issues of Continuity, Change, and Personal Identity, 1964-1969p. 525
Neither Black nor White in a Black-White Worldp. 531
I Knew I Wasn't White, but in America What Was I?p. 540
Time to Get Readyp. 552
Born Freedom Fighterp. 572
Postscript: We Who Believe in Freedomp. 587
Indexp. 593