Organizing involved the kind of commitment and willingness to face risk that Penny Patch conveys in describing the covert nighttime meetings she attended in plantation sharecropper shacks. Patch is white. But that did not lessen the fear or reduce the danger she felt while poll-watching in a country store; most of the white voters who filed in and out made a point of staring menacingly at Patch and her black co-worker.
In addition to its personal accounts of resolve and redemption, Hands on the Freedom Plow provides a useful introduction to the history of SNCC. Founded in April 1960 on the campus of Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, SNCC was conceived to coordinate and publicize desegregation sit-ins. By 1966 it had grown into a powerful regional coalition of organizers — as well as a radical player on the national scene. SNCC found itself increasingly isolated from the Civil Rights establishment after Stokely Carmichael (elected to replace John Lewis as SNCC chairman in 1966) began advocating Black Power.
To learn more about the pivotal roles female activists played in SNCC’s evolution, simply turn to the collection’s table of contents and pick an essay title that engages you. I guarantee you’ll want to go on to all the other stories.
Journalist and former SNCC field secretary Charles E. Cobb Jr. is the author of On the Road to Freedom: A Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail.
Also of interest: More on the Civil Rights movement.