UNCG Campus Weekly

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Four ‘freedom fighters’ of SNCC

They each had a role in the Civil Rights movement, four women who were part of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee).

In introducing them at UNCG’s Duncan Women’s History Lecture, Dr. Lisa Levenstein called them “four women freedom fighters.”

SNCC, which emerged In the wake of the sit-ins of the early 1960s, was “one of the most radical and inspiring activist organizations in all of U.S. history,” she said.

Rutha Mae Harris, the first to speak (she also sang), was a Freedom Singer and a regular participant in marches and demonstrations in Albany, Georgia, Levenstein explained. She was arrested three times, doing this.

Harris became a teacher. “My main goal in the movement was to raise educational standards of African-American youth,” Harris said.

Faith Holsaert, who said, “I feel we’re on sacred ground to be in Greensboro,” worked with SNCC between 1961 and 1965, and also has worked in many other areas of activism.

History can be changed, she told the audience, “no matter how dire” things are. She noted that many members of SNCC that she had known are still engaged in civic affairs.

Margaret Herring worked for SNCC through 1966, in Mississippi and in Atlanta. She grew up in Winston-Salem, daughter of a pastor. She would hear the song “Jesus loves the little children…all are precious in his sight.” But for those in power, “It was obvious they only loved the white children,” she said.

“I was committed to the movement – and I still am.”

The last to speak was Martha Prescod Norman (in visual, speaking). Levenstein noted she was the panelist most responsible for helping to organize this Duncan Women’s History Lecture event in Alumni House.

After her work with SNCC, she remained a community organizer and taught many college courses in African-American history and helped organize several major conferences on the civil rights movement.

Norman spoke of the importance of looking at the activism and actions of all the people – not just of those relatively powerful. “Women were the movement,” she said.

She spoke of their interconnected relationships – such as family and church. “That’s where the strength and power of the movement came from.”