Sunday, October 5, 2014

Bob Zellner, from SNCC, on education/standing up 50 years ago and today among Jeffco students

Bob Zellner, a leader in SNCC, broke through about learning important truths about American history, as he writes at the Highlander Folk School (I had known little of Highlander until Bob wrote; truthtelling was what the Freedom Schools, for black children, during Mississippi Freedom Summer were about...).


Bob came initially from a KKK family in Alabama. James Abraham Zellner, Bob's father and a minister, went to the Soviet Union to help Jews ducking police), met 5 black gospel singers who became his friends and forgot - he kept reminding himself that he was a Klansman and couldn't be friends, but they were...singing together...and then, after a few days, stopped - and became a new person.


Later, he and Bob's brothers prepared to fend off the Klan with guns. Bob adhered to nonviolence (in his every action as a SNCC field secretary, Bob brought to the movement much more than being white).


All were disowned by, never spoken again to by their family (their grandfather, the father's sister and others). But the truth is that anyone can change (though some don't), given being stopped and subsequent experience, just as among those of us who stand up for decent things for a while, some change for the worse. It is one of the great insights of nonviolent noncooperation to oppose oppression firmly, with mass movements, even seriously disrupt things, but do no physical harm, no killing...


Nonviolence creates the possibility of healing, of truth and, to some extent, reconciliation.


As a student at all-white Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, Bob had interviewed Rosa Parks, who took him by the wrist, at Martin Luther King's Church when he was doing research for a paper for a class. For the police were outside to arrest him for this crime in the segregated South. Does this sound like an image of JeffCO as the 3 School Board fanatics hope it to become?


Rosa Parks told him to get action and he did. Listen to the wonderful 2011 video interview here. Bob has been through a lot and laughs about many things.


What Bob describes is the same arc that Savanna Barron, a student at Lakewood High, offers in the first article here: "if they won't teach us civil disobedience, we will teach ourselves." This is that arc, of which John Dewey spoke, 50 years ago, of thinking and stories combined with action. See here. "We are the ones we have been waiting for."


"Alan, keep up your good work. My education took off only when I worked at Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tenn. in the summer of 1961. I had suffered through 16 years of Southern white bred "education," never having attended a class with a single person of color. It would be interesting to unearth all my history books to see if they, or just my teachers, left out a lot of interesting history.

We never learned about the women's suffrage movement, the Lincoln Brigade, the labor movement, W. E. B. DuBois, Harriet Tubman or much else that might cause one to tend to liberate oneself or others. The only subversive content I remember growing up in LA, lower Alabama, in the Forties and Silent 50s was the social gospel preaching of my Dad and some of his radical northern educated fellow Methodist ministers, mainly at national gatherings of the church."


Yes, sadly, one might worry even about history books. DuBois on John Brown and Black Reconstruction were there, written by the greatest American historian and sociologist as Max Weber acclaimed him, but until the late 1970s and Eric Foner's Reconstruction, one would have had to look hard in "prestigious" Universities, North or South...

Even at Harvard where Dubois had gotten a Ph.D., Dubois was...not on the main


As the first white SNCC Field Secretary, Bob looked for my friend Andy Goodman and Mickey Schwerner and James Chaney. Andy was from New York - and Bob's experience in the movement was earlier, Southern, and very different. Nonetheless, as with Vincent Harding and John Perdew, I feel that Bob carries a bit of Andy's spirit.


Bob was arrested and beaten some 18 times - charged with violence and anarchy and riot as the nonviolent always are. See Barbara Deming, "Revolution and Equilibrium" on how the casualties are fewer in nonviolent movements despite the horrific attacks on the innocent.


Studying the civil rights movement will give one a deep understanding of the hope and difficulties in what a mass nonviolent movement may do to change the worst - segregation - and deal with the subsequent counterrevolution (continued impoverishment and joblessness, the "school to prison pipeline" generating the largest number of prisoners in the world, black, white and latino. When Michelle Alexander wrote The New Jim Crow, the US held 25% of all the world's prisoners; today, despite some awareness by Eric Holder and Obama and libertarians, it may be down to...20%).


The Ferguson police chief expressed sorrow to Michael Brown's family; otherwise Missouri "justice" is just Mississippi "justice."


In this day of still recalling mass nonviolence in Arab spring but not considering what strategy and tactics a movement might have to make things stick (think of Egypt today), Bob's words and experience are very important.


A few years ago, he also got arrested and his elbow broken trying to mediate against bulldozers at a Shinnecock reservation in New York state. The cause of each of us black, chicano, asian, Native American, white, palestinian, jew, tibetan, chinese et al - to seek a decent democracy and world in which we all can live with mutual respect - is all interwoven.


You can get Bob's The Wrong Side of Murder Creek, a wonderful read here.


Bob Moses told SNCC volunteers at their 30th reunion to write their stories because even good historians would often get it wrong. He is right.

For even able historians are often influenced by prevailing paradigms and not wanting to offend one's colleagues on whose status one also depends - the academic letter-writing system for jobs and grants - and whom, in addition, one admires. So if your experience as an activist or story-teller conveys a deeper truth going with some evidence in but providing a new perspective and broader evidence about what is "currently said," it is unlikely fully to be heard in academic publishing (here, you can sometimes succeed with great effort) or academic journals. American history writing and social science up to 1970 is mainly a study in forms of racism (Gordon Allport's Prejudice in the late 1930s,as the US moved to fight Nazism, was an exception)...The civil rights movement and people standing up, not academic research by itself or even mainly, has changed this situation (the JEFFCO School Board, er Republican National Committee, er Koch Brothers and so forth, want to roll this back).


My experience with both the reception of Black Patriots and Loyalists and in working on John Evans' role in the massacre at Sand Creek - though there is a big public movement, initiated and steadily brought forward by indigenous people which is now beginning to change this, too - testifies to Bob Moses's point. So tell the story yourself and it will be here and those with an open heart (many people, including many historians) will be able to hear at least some of it.


"Bob Zellner took stand against his white community's values
Steph Solis, USA TODAY August 19, 2013
Alabama native had family members in the Ku Klux Klan, but his interest in civil rights led him to the SNCC.

For photograph, see here.
Bob Zellner
(Photo: Photo Courtesy of Keppler Speakers)

He studied civil rights, then Rosa Parks prodded him to get involved and take action.
He remembers marchers being warned not to sing freedom songs.
Colleagues were murdered by racists, and he was jailed.

Leading up to the March on Washington, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Commitee member Bob Zellner and other organizers received a warning: No freedom songs allowed.

Civil rights leaders advised activists to avoid freedom songs and militant rhetoric that could incite a mob. Just as SNCC Chairman John Lewis had to modify his speech, Zellner recalls being asked to tone it down.

But that didn't stop the 24-year-old activist from joining in song that Wednesday afternoon.

"We all gathered at the foot of the steps of the freedom circle, and we sang freedom songs anyway," says Zellner, now 74. "It was the most important day up to that point of the civil rights movement."

Zellner, a white native of southern Alabama, grew up with family members who were involved in the Ku Klux Klan. But his interest in the civil rights movement drew him closer to activism while in college. For his senior thesis, he tried to interview civil rights leaders Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and Alabama union leader E.D. Nixon, who had helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott.

Parks told him to get involved. "Bob, you can't study the racial problem forever," he recalls her saying. "You have to eventually take a stand, and you have to take action."

After graduating from college in 1961, Zellner joined SNCC. He worked in grass-roots campaigns with civil rights leaders in Montgomery; Albany, Ga.; Danville, Va.; Birmingham; and other communities.

For SNCC members, he says, the March on Washington was a chance to highlight the sacrifices young activists made in pushing for racial equality.

"In the first 36 months of my work with SNCC and Dr. King, five of my colleagues were murdered by racists," he says. Many more, including Zellner, were jailed.

Summer 1963 was tumultuous for Zellner. He had been in jail in Danville, Va., for a demonstration at which his fiancée, Dorothy, was beaten up. They married on Aug. 9 in Atlanta, the day after his release, and traveled to Mobile, Ala., California and Corning, N.Y., to visit family and conduct speaking engagements. They arrived in Washington the night before the march.

The press focused on the leaders of the march, but it was the everyday people who took over, Zellner says.

"We were basically marshals at the march because we were veterans of the movement," Zellner says. "Nobody knew what was going to happen with a quarter of a million people there."

It was a day, he says, that reaffirmed his belief in the movement.

"Everything that we had been doing up to that point was now being recognized, and it was now being honored by our nation, by the people," Zellner says.

The "I Have A Dream" speech gained the world's attention. But what really resonated with Zellner was King's call to action.

"What Dr. King says 50 years ago was you go back to the states and you work," he says, "and that's what we did."

For Zellner, campaigning for civil rights meant rebelling against his community's values. Although Zellner's father left the KKK, most of the family sided with segregationists and disowned them. His mother, a schoolteacher, and his father, a minister, decided against leaving their livelihoods to join the movement.

Nonetheless, Zellner joined African-American activists in demonstrations organized by SNCC and the National Civil Rights Coordinating Committee with King's message in mind. The Southern Conference Educational Fund helped form an anti-racism project among blacks and whites.

Over the years, Zellner traveled the world studying activism and race. He also lectured at the National Institute for Minorities in Beijing (then Peking) in the 1970s to talk about multiculturalism. He returned to the states to focus on campaigning for racial equality, sticking with local activists. Today he is part of the Eastern Long Island Branch of the NAACP and the Southampton Town Anti-Bias Task Force.

Fifty years after the march, Zellner says King's call to action is more important than ever.

He says people should organize in their communities to raise awareness about lingering civil rights issues.

"It's important to remember what happened 50 years ago, but we are listening to Dr. King's words: 'Go back to Mississippi, go back to Mobile, Ala., go back to Danville, Va.'"


"USA Today
Preservationists work to save Highlander Folk School

For photograph, see here.

Rosa Parks trained at Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tenn., a few months before her refusal to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., launched a world-changing boycott. Gannett/The (Nashville) Tennessean

Michael Cass, The (Nashville) Tennessean August 14, 2013
The retreat in rural Tennessee was where civil rights activists such as Rosa Parks learned to confront oppression.

highlander school.jpg
(Photo: Gannett/Rudy Abramson, The (Nashville) Tennessean)

The Monteagle, Tenn. site was originally used for labor organizers
Rare place where blacks, whites, could come together as equals
'We Shall Overcome' became civil rights anthem here

MONTEAGLE, Tenn. -- Rosa Parks trained here a few months before she refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus. We Shall Overcome became a civil rights anthem here. Student activists from Nashville held retreats in the lakeside buildings, and Eleanor Roosevelt and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. came to visit.

More than 50 years after the state of Tennessee seized Highlander Folk School's property, not much remains of a place that gave so much inspiration to people who fought for social justice while posing such a visceral threat to the status quo that its founder was accused of being a Communist agitator.

But a Nashville-based historic preservation group has started working to buy what it can of the Grundy County property, restore its historical look and protect it from development.

"It's really one of the first places where you see African-Americans and whites that are actually congregating to talk about social issues," David Currey, chairman of the Tennessee Preservation Trust, said during a visit to Highlander's old library. "Trying to get our hands on this piece of property allows us to tell that story again in the context of this rural setting, which is what it was at the time."

Currey said he's trying to secure options to buy the property, now reduced to two cabins and a library beside a placid mountain lake southeast of Nashville, near Chattanooga. The land he's working to assemble totals 13.5 acres, just a small fraction of the 200 acres where Myles Horton started the school in 1932.

The preservation trust hopes to raise about $1 million through a national campaign to buy and possibly renovate the property, Currey said. It would then turn the site over to another group to operate it, perhaps an organization created for that purpose.

Pam McMichael, director of Highlander Research and Education Center, which has been based in New Market, Tenn., northeast of Knoxville, since 1971, said the preservation trust's plans could "bring heightened public awareness and engagement with Highlander's work today."

McMichael's organization, which owns the Highlander Folk School name, is in the middle of its own, $3.2 million fundraising campaign. It trains about 3,000 people a year to seek "justice in all its forms," she said.

A mountain retreat

Born in Savannah, Tenn., in 1905, Horton longed to start a school that would help poor Southerners confront the forces that oppressed them. After studying folk schools in Denmark, he returned to the U.S. in 1932 and, with collaborator Don West, found a key supporter in Lilian Johnson, who owned 200 acres in Monteagle.

Once Johnson agreed to lease her land to Horton and West, the organization they had described to prospective donors as "The Southern Mountains School" was on its way. West or his wife, Connie, later came up with the name "Highlander Folk School," Horton wrote in his autobiography, The Long Haul.

West moved on after losing a power struggle to Horton in the spring of 1933, according to Nashville author John Egerton's book Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South. Horton soon turned to the task of training labor organizers and workers, especially coal miners.

Egerton, who got to know Horton before the Highlander founder died in 1990, said Horton was a storyteller with a big sense of humor and a thick skin. He believed in flat-out democracy, a society in which every person has a place at the table.

"He wanted everybody to be in on the act," Egerton said. "Everybody got to vote. Everybody got to work. Everybody got to go to school. You didn't make partitions and separations based on where somebody grew up or where his daddy hunted or whether he had a dark skin or not."

"Myles always thought, you look where people are both angry and hopeful," Candie Carawan said from the house where she and her husband, Guy, live near Highlander in New Market. "The larger umbrella is just to try to build a more democratic country, and particularly a more democratic South."

In the early 1950s, Horton and his board of directors turned their attention to racial segregation. In July 1955, a Montgomery, Ala., tailor's assistant named Rosa Parks went to Highlander for a two-week interracial conference and returned home with "a strengthened self-confidence," according to David Garrow's Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The following December, Parks refused to give her seat on a bus to a white person, setting off the Montgomery bus boycott, which gave shape to the modern civil rights movement and propelled King to prominence.

"That was not accidental," Egerton said. "The idea that things like that would have to be done to force the hand of the authorities was certainly part of the whole (Highlander) curriculum."

Diane Nash, a Nashville civil rights leader as a student at Fisk University in the early 1960s, said she recalls attending a meeting at Highlander during which blacks and whites were washing dishes together. A black woman said it was "the first time she had dealt with white people on an equal basis."

"I have always looked at it as a kind of oasis in the middle of a great deal of racial prejudice," Nash said.

highlander king.jpg
Martin Luther King Jr. speaking at Highlander Folk School's 25th anniversary celebration in Monteagle, Tenn., during the summer of 1957.(Photo: Gannett/The Tennessean/Wisconsin Historical Society)
'We Shall Overcome'

In the winter of 1960, college students in Nashville and other cities started sitting in at segregated lunch counters. Student activists from 19 states gathered at Highlander that April, Taylor Branch writes in Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63.

The students soon met Guy Carawan, a musician who had first visited Highlander in 1953 at the suggestion of folk singer Pete Seeger. By now a volunteer at the school, Carawan taught the activists — including his future wife — a labor movement song he had adapted with a new rhythm and chord structure, Candie Carawan said Friday.

The song was We Shall Overcome, which tobacco workers had brought to Highlander from South Carolina, said Candie Carawan, who was a white exchange student at Fisk in 1960.

"Highlander was really the place that kept We Shall Overcome alive," she said.

King had first heard We Shall Overcome when Seeger played it at Highlander in 1957, Garrow writes. The civil rights leader later told associates, "There's something about that song that haunts you."

Charges of communism

The presence of black students at Highlander drew scrutiny, Egerton writes. Accusations that the school was a Communist training ground began to swell in the late 1950s, reflecting another political hot spot of the era.

But the charge prosecutors were finally able to get Highlander with was smaller — yet still bogus — said Nashville attorney George Barrett, who defended Horton during what he called a "sensational" trial. Highlander was charged with selling alcohol without a license after a raid turned up "a washtub full of ice, soft drinks and beer, plus a jar of coins," Branch writes.

"They were just letting people put in a quarter to get a bottle of beer," Barrett, still a practicing attorney, explained more than half a century later.

But the state Supreme Court ruled against Highlander, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal, he said. Officials revoked Horton's charter in 1961, padlocked the property, subdivided it and sold it.

Egerton said Horton immediately got a new charter and moved Highlander to Knoxville, where it spent 10 years before moving up the road to New Market.

Currey, who also is working on a new interpretive plan for Nashville's riverfront Fort Nashborough property, said turning the old Highlander land into a proper historic site would "take some elbow grease." The lake remains, but much of the site has changed, including the library, which someone added onto at some point.

But Currey believes returning Highlander to the way it looked in 1961 would be well worth the trouble.

"This place has the potential," he said, "to tell a story that hasn't been told."


"Bob Zellner

Dr. Bob Zellner, born on April 5, 1939, was raised in southern Alabama, the second of five boys born to Methodist minister James Abraham Zellner and school teacher Ruby Hardy Zellner. A 1957 graduation speaker at Murphy High School in Mobile, he received a BA from Huntingdon College, Montgomery, Alabama in 1961 with highest honors in Sociology and Psychology. After teaching at Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, Bob was the first white southerner to serve as Field Secretary for SNCC ("Snick"), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Arrested 18 times in seven states, he organized in McComb, Miss., Albany, Ga., Danville, Va., Talladega, Montgomery, and Birmingham, Ala., as well as New Haven, Ct., and Boston, Mass. Zellner was charged with everything from criminal anarchy in Baton Rouge to "inciting the black population to acts of war and violence against the white population" in Danville. From 1963 to 1965, Zellner studied race relations in the Graduate School of Sociology at Brandeis University. During Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964, he traveled with Rita Schwerner while conducting part of SNCC's and CORE's investigation into the disappearance of her husband Mickey Schwerner and his co-workers James Chaney and Andrew Goodman.

When SNCC became an all black organization in 1967, Bob and his wife Dottie joined SCEF, the Southern Conference Educational Fund to organize an anti-racism project for black and white workers in the Deep South. This project called GROW (Grass Roots Organizing Work) and also known as Get Rid Of Wallace, built a residential educational facility in New Orleans and began organizing the Gulfcoast Pulpwood Association beginning in Laurel, Miss. where a wildcat strike involving black and white Masonite factory workers and woodcutters spread across the southern states.

Following Nixon's ping pong diplomacy in 1972, Bob Zellner spent six weeks in China visiting paper plants, studying pulpwood harvesting, and lecturing at the National Institute for Minorities in Peking on SNCC, SCEF and multicultural work in the white community.

Beginning in the mid-sixties, Bob worked on documentary and feature films, traveling to Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and Mexico. The film Mississippi Burning so distorted the role of the FBI in the movement that Bob toured college campuses lecturing on the real history of the struggle. J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, far from being heroes of the movement, hounded Zellner's friend and mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and launched the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), a U.S. government attack designed to destroy the Freedom Movement.[Amen!]

In the early 1990s, studying at Tulane University for a Ph.D. in History, Zellner wrote a dissertation on the Southern civil rights movement. While working on the dissertation, he taught the History of Activism at Rosemont College and Southampton College of Long Island University with Julian Bond, now the National NAACP Chairman, with whom Bob organized the National Civil Rights Coordinating Committee. Currently Bob works with the Eastern Long Island Branch of the NAACP headed by Lucius Ware and with the Southampton Town Anti-Bias Task Force under the leadership of Dianne Rulnick.

In 2005, Bob Zellner was featured in the award-winning documentary Come Walk in My Shoes. This congressional pilgrimage to Selma, Alabama, and other sites of the freedom struggle was led by the Honorable John Lewis and filmed by Robin Smith, President and Founder of Video Action. The documentary is airing periodically on PBS through 2010.

Bob's memoir, The Wrong Side of Murder Creek, A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement, edited by Connie Curry and with a foreword by Julian Bond, was published by NewSouth Books in the fall of 2008."


"Bob Zellner - for Photo, see here.
Civil Rights Foot Soldier

From a family line of KKK members, Bob Zellner became one of the first white southerners to engage in the early civil rights movement. He organized sit-ins, rallies, investigations and speeches from Missouri to Massachusetts. Along his journey, Zellner was insulted, violently attacked, beaten unconscious, and arrested over 18 times. Yet even now in his 70’s, Bob stands fast for democracy, equality and justice.

Zellner’s story starts about as far as you can get from where he has ended up. He was born into the family of a Methodist preacher and school teacher on April 5, 1939. His father, uncles and grandfather were robe wearing members of the Ku Klux Klan. However, Bob’s childhood took a unique turn when he was quite young. Bob’s father, James traveled to Europe to help support the Jewish underground during the Nazi occupation. Isolated from English speakers for months, Bob’s father stumbled across a group of black gospel singers who were also supporting the Jewish underground. As they lived, encouraged and worked together as equals throughout the Russian winter, James realized that the racist beliefs he was raised with were no longer beliefs he wished to hold. When Bob’s father returned he split from the KKK and chose to raise his children outside of the KKK influence.

By high school Bob began forming his own opinions on race and equality following the expulsion of Autherine Lucy (a black student) from the University of Alabama. Bob’s poorly formed ideas on equal access to education didn’t make him popular with his classmates or their parents.

Bob Zellner’s first steps into the civil rights movement would come later as a student at the all-white Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama. His senior Sociology assignment prodded the class to use library research to find solutions to racial problems. Bob and his four close friends and classmates decided to gather information from the white supremacists as well as a Civil Rights meeting at an all-black college. Attending the meeting brought with it many consequences, including fierce warnings from his professor, anger and torment from other students, and a stern warning from Alabama’s Attorney General suggesting they were “falling under communist influence.”

Zellner MugshotDespite the reprimands, Bob and his friends felt there was more to the story and continued learning about the purpose and need for the civil rights movement. Bob met privately with Dr. King, Reverend Abernathy, Rosa Parks and others before taking the greater risk of attending a public Civil Rights meeting surrounded by the media, police and state investigators.

“Bob, when you see something wrong, you’re going to have to do something about it. You can’t study it forever.” – Rosa Parks

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) would later ask Bob to become their first white field secretary. SNCC was just starting out as a movement of youth who took nonviolent action against segregated facilities. While Bob was mentored by SNCC leaders, such as James Foreman and Julian Bond, he supported the movement in any way possible. He started with sweeping floors as he began learning how to organize demonstrations and educate others on tactics of nonviolent resistance. During the first few years five of Zellner’s SNCC colleagues were lynched and killed by white supremacists.

Bob helped SNCC organize in tension-filled hot-spots across southern states, often facing fierce criticism from the white community and initial distrust from the black community. In 1966 SNCC organized a meeting in McComb, Mississippi to organize around the murder of a black voter registration worker. As a bold and somewhat naive 21 year old, Bob had no idea that his presence on the City Hall steps would infuriate the police and the crowd to violence. While the FBI looked on and took notes, the mob screamed out that they would kill him. Soon the on-lookers beating Bob and the others with bats, pipes and chains until they were unconscious. Bob was taken out of town to be lynched, but his kidnappers were worried they would be too easily identified and decided to put him in a makeshift jail.

“It took a special brand of commitment and courage to do this work, and Bob never lack for either.” – Julian Bond
Over the course of his life Bob would be attacked and beaten many times. He would also become well acquainted with jails and detention facilities as well as the torture tactics of police. He learned to pack light, often carrying only a book and a toothbrush, two items he might be allowed to keep while in jail. Bob would be arrested over 18 times in seven states, at times needing black lawyers to represent him because all of the white lawyers would refuse, viewing him as a “disgrace to the race.”

With a strong belief that the unjust laws and bigoted practices in the South were hurting not only blacks but whites as well [amen!], Bob boldly continued as an agent of change. The Civil Rights movement grew and so did the backlash from white supremacists. Many SNCC members would half-joke that it was “open season on civil rights workers.” Whenever Bob organized in Alabama he was followed by men in dark glasses at all times. Even while attending his grandmother’s funeral, Bob and his family members were harassed by Governor George Wallace’s goons.
“After all of that brutal history [McComb, Albany, Birmingham, etc] and the accompanying worldwide news coverage, we still had to pressure the government to do something to protect the people in their right to vote – the simplest and most basic right of a democracy.” – Bob Zellner.

While working with SNCC, Bob would fall in love with Dorothy “Dottie” Miller, a white member of the Congress for Racial Equity (CORE) and later SNCC. The two would get married in 1963. Bob and Dottie continued with SNCC, including coordinating fundraising events with the help of Harry Belafonte, Ray Charles, Marlon Brando and Lena Horne.

A few years after the Civil Rights Act was passed, Bob and Dottie left SNCC, began raising two daughters and developed the GROW project. GROW was aimed at passing on their organizing expertise to rural whites and blacks suffering low wages, and poor schools, health care and housing.
Picture of SNCC Members
Bob and Dottie Zellner behind Julian Bond/SNCC.
(©2008 Richard Avedon Foundation)

Through the 80’s and 90’s Bob ran a small construction company and traveled as a lecturer passing on his memories and knowledge about promoting social justice. He continues to this day to live a life promoting social justice. In 2000, Bob was called to help negotiate a land dispute between the Shinnecock Reservation and New York developers, where he and the others were beaten by state troopers before being falsely arrested. Then, in April 2013, at the age of 74, Bob Zellner was again arrested, this time for participating in a protest against North Carolina’s recent restrictions to voting access.

“Brotherhood and sisterhood is not so wild a dream as those who profit by postponing it pretend”. – Bob Zellner
Bob Zellner’s overcame fear and community pressure to learn about and be involved with the Civil Rights movement.

His incredible perseverance helped shape the course of history. Perhaps the most fascinating part of Bob’s life is that he hasn’t “retired.” He continues to inspire others to seek justice and equality."

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