It’s an organization whose name conjures up images of sit-ins, freedom rides and marches. But the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee also paved the way for a generation of female leaders and activists. We learn more about the women behind SNCC from two pioneers who played a part in the movement.


  • Judy Richardson Filmmaker; former Member, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); and contributor & co-editor, "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC" (Univ. of Illinois Press)
  • Maria Varela Former employee, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); contributor, "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC" (Univ. of Illinois Press)


  • 12:06:42

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world.

  • 12:07:01

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIIt's an erstwhile organization whose name conjures up images of freedom rides, sit-ins and marches of the civil rights era. But the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC as many know it, isn't always a name that conjures up images of the struggle of women. The reality is that SNCC's trials paved the way for a generation of female leaders and activists who cut their teeth on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement, from community organizers to film makers to future members of congress, Their stories are part of a new book, "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC." And their stories are part of the personal journeys of the two women joining us in studio today.

  • 12:07:41

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIMaria Varela was an organizer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She's a contributor to the book, "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC." Maria, thank you very much for joining us.

  • 12:07:52

    MS. MARIA VARELAThank you for having us.

  • 12:07:53

    NNAMDIAlso with us is Judy Richardson. She's a filmmaker and a former member of SNCC. She is a contributor and co-editor of the book. As we said, it's called, "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC." Judy, good to see you again.

  • 12:08:08

    MS. JUDY RICHARDSONOh, and good to see you, Kojo.

  • 12:08:09

    NNAMDIAllow me to begin with a personal account. When I first came to Washington, D.C., Judy Richardson, who was then associated with Drum & Spear Bookstore and Drum & Spear Press, was one of the first people I met and one of the stronger influences in my later development in later years. So, Judy, it is a real pleasure to welcome you and to find out more about you from your personal account in, "Hands on the Freedom Plow."

  • 12:08:32

    RICHARDSONThank you, thank you.

  • 12:08:34

    NNAMDIOf course, it begins for me with Sleepy Hollow High School.

  • 12:08:37

    RICHARDSONOh, my gosh.

  • 12:08:39

    NNAMDII couldn't believe that this veteran of SNCC, who I first met -- and I said, Judy, by the way, where'd you go to High School? She said, oh, I went to Sleepy Hollow High School in Tarrytown, N.Y. I was like, Sleepy Hollow High School?

  • 12:08:52

    RICHARDSONYes. And do not forget that our football team was the headless horsemen. The horsemen go.

  • 12:08:58

    NNAMDIThe horseman go. A lot of people associate SNCC, with very particular people and places, John Lewis, Julian Bond, lunch counters in Greensboro, Freedom Rights in the south. But it's my understanding that you were pulled into the movement by a fire brand female leader right here in Cambridge, Md., Gloria Richardson. What was it about what you saw in Cambridge and in Gloria that made you want to join this movement when you were a freshman at Swarthmore?

  • 12:09:24

    RICHARDSONWell, it was amazing. I mean, I had a lot of strong black women in my life. I mean, my mother was one of them. But Gloria was strong in a different kind of way. I mean, my image of Gloria is very much like the photo that we have in the book. 'Cause we have a lot of wonderful photos, archival photos. And so what you see in that is Gloria in a blouse and jeans, ramrod straight and walking straight toward General Gelstin (sp?) of the National Guard in Cambridge. She was fearless. You know, she's in her 80s now and I still would not want to go on the other side of her.

  • 12:09:59

    RICHARDSONYou know, I mean, I'm scared of -- I mean, she is just amazing. And she and the other local leaders of that movement -- Pop Herb Sinclair, who was her uncle and who ran the funeral parlor and a number of them were just amazing. And then, I also find out about Reggie Robinson, who was the SNCC field secretary who comes in to assist in the local movement there.

  • 12:10:21

    NNAMDIAnd between them, they inspired you enough that you wanted to stay with this movement and, in a way, remake your life.

  • 12:10:30

    RICHARDSONOh, it absolutely changed my life. I mean, it changed my whole world view. You know, it's like -- I was going to be a social worker, which was very fine, but I also thought I was only taking off the next semester of my sophomore year, my first semester, and just going down to work with Cambridge, you know. Who knew it was going to be three more years and that I would be based in Atlanta? And then, we moved the national office to Greenwood, Ms. the summer of 1964, otherwise known as Freedom Summer, and then Alabama and we go into Lowndes county off the Selma March and then Southwest Georgia.

  • 12:10:59

    RICHARDSONI knew nothing like that. I'm thinking it's just going to be six months, which I had to promise my mother because I'm on a four-year scholarship. She has an eighth grade education, but is the most learned person I know. But, you know, the assumption was, you will be in college.

  • 12:11:15

    NNAMDIMaria Varela, you will be astounded that Judy Richardson and I are the same (word?). She's not related to Gloria Richardson, by the way. And when I came here to Washington, the experiences that people and the other SNCC people I met here in Washington had already had in their lives, made me feel like a child all over again. By the way, if you'd like to join this conversation, you can call us at 800-433-8850 or you can go to our website, join the conversation there. If you have comments or questions about women in the civil rights movement, you can also send us a tweet @kojoshow.

  • 12:11:47

    NNAMDIMaria Varela, you grew up the daughter of Mexican and Irish parents. And a college and high school affiliation with a group called Young Christian Students ultimately steered you in the direction of SNCC. Who and what pulled you into the organization?

  • 12:12:02

    VARELAWell, actually, I was pretty chicken about -- Young Christian Students was a sort of based on the liberation theology so we did a lot of work around racism, poverty on campuses trying to get students to connect their Christianity to that. So here I am on campuses talking about the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and wouldn't they like to have a fundraiser for these fearless warriors, some of whom I've met and were the smartest people I'd ever met in my life.

  • 12:12:32

    VARELAAnd then, I get this call from the Atlanta office from Casey Haden, who was working for Jim Foreman, who said, you know, we'd really like you to come down and work. You could be my assistant here in the office. And that's when you realize that your values and your ideas face reality. And I did not want to go. I was too scared.

  • 12:12:58

    NNAMDIOr chicken is appropriate, yeah.

  • 12:12:59

    VARELAChicken, yeah.

  • 12:13:00

    VARELAAnd we'll find why in a minute when Maria reads some of the things that she has promised to read for us later. But first, Judy, I'd like you to read because Maria just mentioned the SNCC office. And I'd like you to read about when you first saw the SNCC office and the affect it had on you.

  • 12:13:16

    RICHARDSONGreat. First of all, my piece is called my enduring circle of trust because we in SNCC refer to us as a band of brothers and, we would add later, sisters in a circle of trust. So mine begins, "I saw the national office of SNCC for the first time in November 1963. It was a teeny rundown office at 8 ½ Raymond street, a one block side street off Hunter, now Martin Luther King Boulevard near the Atlanta University Center. The office was located on the second floor above a beauty shop. It definitely did not fit my image of a national office."

  • 12:13:50

    RICHARDSONAnd let me just, I'm thinking sweet offices, you know. Carpet on the floor, ha. Okay. "So I was 19 and had gone to Atlanta with Reggie Robinson, SNCC's field secretary in Cambridge, where I'd been working full time since leaving Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Now, from the downstairs glass door of the national office, I saw this large man at the top of the stairs dressed in overalls and sweeping the stairs. Reggie saw him, too, then ran up the stairs and with broad smiles and much hollering, they hugged each other like long lost brothers. And I thought, whoa, this is truly in a egalitarian office, since I assumed the man to be the janitor."

  • 12:14:27

    RICHARDSON"It was only after Reggie called the man's name that I realized this was Jim Foreman, SNCC's larger than life executive secretary. There was such joy, warmth and affection in this moment that I thought, Judy, you just haven't just joined an organization, you've joined a family. SNCC really is a band of brothers and a circle of trust. And I assumed I'd be in it the rest of my life. Now, I later found out that Foreman often swept up and not so much to clean the perpetually dirty office, which was good since he wasn't all that good at it, rather he was showing us that, as he often said, no job was too lowly for anyone at SNCC to do and every job was important to sustaining the organization."

  • 12:15:10

    RICHARDSON"So Reggie introduced us and through questioning, Foreman found out that I had taken a semester off from Swarthmore and that I could take shorthand, which was kind of like texting, but with symbols, and type 90 words a minute. And I never made it back to Cambridge."

  • 12:15:24

    NNAMDIJudy Richardson, reading from "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by women in SNCC." We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. You can send e-mail to Something Maria said and something you pointed out also, Judy, you come from a predominately white school, no more than 10 percent black in Tarrytown, N.Y., Sleepy Hollow -- I just love the name of that.

  • 12:15:46


  • 12:15:47

    NNAMDIYou go onto Swarthmore in a predominately white environment and the first thing you noticed about the SNCC volunteers or the SNCC workers when you went that was how smart they are.

  • 12:15:56

    RICHARDSONOh, honey. I mean, I never talked. I was absolutely in awe of everybody. There was Joyce and Dory Ladner and they had been mentored by Medger Evers who was, of course, assassinated right before the march on Washington in 1963. People knew things. They knew how to organize. And you would sit in those meetings and -- think, my God. And, you know, Stokely's talking about Kant and...

  • 12:16:19

    NNAMDIStokely Carmichael.

  • 12:16:20

    RICHARDSON...I'm sorry, Stokely Carmichael, who becomes Kwame Ture. He's talking about Kant and Hegel because he was a philosophy student at Howard University and people are talking about all of these concepts and organizing. And of course, then there was Ms. Baker.

  • 12:16:33

    NNAMDIElla Baker.

  • 12:16:34

    RICHARDSONWho was a primary strategist. And she's the one who brings everybody together in 1960 for that first organizing meeting of SNCC. So it's like I'm surrounded by this greatness and this mentality, it's like -- I never said a word.

  • 12:16:47

    NNAMDIThat's the part about the inspiration. Now, here's the part about the chicken that Maria Varela referred to earlier. There was a need to be chicken in that environment because it could be a fairly dangerous environment. Maria, can you read to us a piece from the "Hands on the Freedom Plow" about being chased by police in Mississippi?

  • 12:17:08

    VARELAWell, maybe it would've been better if it was police, but it was a couple of...

  • 12:17:13

    NNAMDIThank you.

  • 12:17:13

    VARELA...white thugs with a shotgun between their knees. So let me start. "I looked down at the speedometer. It hovered at 115. My 1957 Packard hunkered down and propelled the three of us down the Mississippi interstate 55. Glancing to the side, I saw the two-tone '62 Chevy with its white occupants trying to pass us, yet again. The barrel of a long gun poked up between the two men in the front seat. It seemed like an eternity since we left Memphis and got on the interstate. Earlier that day, my companions, an older black women and her daughter, and I had left a SNCC meeting at Highland Center in Tennessee."

  • 12:17:52

    VARELA"We're on our way to Mississippi Delta. Traveling in an integrated car in daylight had left us a little tense. When we stopped for gas in Memphis that evening, I thought that the cover of darkness meant the worst of the journey was over. Then I turned from the gas pump and saw the white male occupants of the Chevy staring at us. It was the fall of 1964, open season on civil rights workers."

  • 12:18:17

    NNAMDIWe're talking about the book "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC." What you heard was a reading by Maria Varela. She is one of the contributors to the book, was an organizer in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Also with us in studio is Judy Richardson. She's a filmmaker, former member of SNCC and a co-editor of this book. Judy, in American popular culture, SNCC is John Lewis, Julian Bond, Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, James Foreman, no women among them. Obviously, that’s one of the reasons you guys wanted to put this book together.

  • 12:18:49

    RICHARDSONAbsolutely. And it's also because there's this general sense of -- you know, the poor little women of SNCC being oppressed. And so it's interesting. I did Julian Bond's class, talked to his class at Atlanta University yesterday -- last night. And I mean, the men of SNCC, absolutely understood how important the women were. And I mentioned how when I left Swarthmore, because I was coming from the north, I had to apply for SNCC. And the Penny Patch who had...

  • 12:19:16

    NNAMDIExplain that to our listeners. Why did you have to apply because you were coming from the north?

  • 12:19:20

    RICHARDSONBecause I was not from the south. It was not assumed that I knew what the rhythms were -- of the south were. I was not a known entity, necessarily. You know, I mean, I might've been stupid, I mean, in terms of how I related to African-American community. And so -- and we were careful, by the way, also, in terms of the volunteers who come down in 1964, in that respect. You know, that they should not be coming down assuming that they are, you know, coming to the poor black masses who know nothing, you know.

  • 12:19:48

    RICHARDSONSo they had to be careful. And so I applied. But what I'm told is, you can apply, but you go to go by Ruby Doris. And Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson was the fearless woman. She had been on the freedom rides and she was the administrator of the office, but so much more. So when I did Julian's class last night, I said, you've got a wonderful story. And Julian has a story where they are demonstrating in Atlanta at Grady Memorial Hospital. And Grady Memorial was a municipal hospital.

  • 12:20:19

    RICHARDSONAnd so they're coming up to the admittance of the white-only section and Julian is with Ruby Doris and the white admitting person says, well, you're not sick. At which point, Ruby Doris throws up on the desk and looks at the woman and says, is that sick enough for you?

  • 12:20:37


  • 12:20:38

    RICHARDSONNow, these are the women that I knew in SNCC, you know, and the men acknowledged that. They know.

  • 12:20:44

    NNAMDISNCC, after all, was a youth organization. How did the age of the people involved in it affect the opportunities for women inside it and the attitudes that people took towards what might have been traditionally accepted, Maria?

  • 12:20:58

    VARELAI didn't find -- I mean, once you got into that community, it's like we were ageless. I mean, I was remembering how I was supposed to go to the work in the office in Atlanta with Casey Hayden. But before that, I ended up being recruited to work with a few people to -- there were young kids in rural areas that, because they saw in Jet magazine or on television that college students were having sit-ins, that these kids took upon themselves to have sit-ins in their little rural towns and got the crap beat out of them, got put in jail.

  • 12:21:31

    VARELAAnd SNCC decided then to do some kind of a leadership program with these young people, brought them out of these little rural towns into Atlanta. And I was on the staff of that just before I went to work with SNCC. Well, Frank Smith, who was a field worker -- a field secretary...

  • 12:21:46

    NNAMDIAnd a former city council member here in Washington.

  • 12:21:47

    VARELAOh, yes, right.

  • 12:21:49

    RICHARDSONYou are in D.C.

  • 12:21:50

    VARELAThat's right. Gee, yeah.

  • 12:21:51

    NNAMDIWhich is where James Foreman was in his later days.

  • 12:21:54

    RICHARDSONThat's right.

  • 12:21:54

    VARELAThat's right. So Frank comes to speak to this group of students. And over lunch, we're having a conversation and I'm talking about the young -- he asked me where I came from. And I started talking about the Young Christian Students and he got this funny look on his face and I didn't think anything of it. And then, Bernard Lafayette, who was in Selma at the time as a field secretary, I think, for SCLC and SNCC or...

  • 12:22:16

    RICHARDSONI think maybe -- I think just for SNCC at that point.

  • 12:22:18

    VARELAFor SNCC at that point because -- yeah. I saw them huddled over the table and they called me over. And they said, you know, we're thinking you should go to Selma.

  • 12:22:27


  • 12:22:28

    VARELAAlabama. And I'm looking at them like, are you crazy? And they said, yes, because the person who really has been the strongest for that movement is a French-Canadian who was a pastor of the black Catholic church.

  • 12:22:46

    NNAMDIMakes sense.

  • 12:22:47

    VARELAAnd he says -- he says, now, we're Baptist, and this man is having problems with his Bishop, he's having problems with a few in his congregation. We need one of you all to go over there and support this man because he is very important to the movement. And I'm thinking, wait a minute, you know. I just -- no. I was just going to stay in the office here. I was willing to put my toe in the water, but I was not really willing to jump in. But Frank and Bernard, I mean, they were so persuasive.

  • 12:23:14

    VARELAThey just had his faith that I could do this. Now, they -- how could they do that because they don't know me? I could have gone and really screwed things up in Selma, but there -- there was some intuition that I think you have when you're in that kind of situation where you know -- I guess they knew. I don't know. But they had that faith that I could do it. I figured if they had the faith I could do it, then maybe I should have that faith in myself.

  • 12:23:35

    NNAMDIHere's why they conceivably had that faith. Judy Richardson writes that SNCC drew a particular kind of woman to it. What kind of woman did SNCC draw to it?

  • 12:23:46

    RICHARDSONI think there was a lot of independence. There was an independence and there was a sense of being able to work together. I mean, the thing is, I mean, like when young people come up to us sometimes and they say, oh, you know, we have these problems in our own college organizations or we only have three people coming -- the same three people coming to the meetings. You know, what they don't realize is, first of all, we had our own tangents.

  • 12:24:08

    RICHARDSONBut the thing was, you know, somebody -- you know, again, we're 18, 19, 20 years old. So somebody might have been going out with your boyfriend, you know. But the main thing is, if what you're trying to do is get black people registered to vote without getting them killed, then you got to put a lot of that little stuff behind us. Also, a lot of times, you know, you could have only three people in a meeting for months at a time and it would be the local organizer, her mother and her cousin.

  • 12:24:31

    RICHARDSONAnd if all the people who say that they were in the movement were in the movement, we'd be free now, you know. So it was -- they -- we were not that unusual and we were...

  • 12:24:40

    NNAMDIBecause you had women like Diane Nash...

  • 12:24:41


  • 12:24:42

    NNAMDI...Ruby Doris...

  • 12:24:43


  • 12:24:43

    NNAMDI...that had been leaders and activists in their own right...

  • 12:24:46

    RICHARDSONBefore they come into SNCC. That's exactly it. Diane Nash is one of the main leaders. She's the one who wrote, "make sure that the freedom rides continue after the buses are burned in Anniston and people are beaten in Birmingham." She says, no, we cannot let violence stop the movement, which is of the tenants of the movement. So she's the one who organizes and makes sure that that freedom ride continues. Ruby Doris did 30 days jail, no bail in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in 1961.

  • 12:25:11

    RICHARDSONYou know, and this is -- you know, this is a young woman who was, at that point, 19, 20 years old, breaking rocks, doing hard time and saying, I will not allow for bail because the charges under which I have been put in here are illegal and immoral. And I'm not going to give validation to this illegal government that is there because there are no black people voting for them. I'm not going to give credence to that. So I will stay in here for the 30 days.

  • 12:25:39

    NNAMDIThese are the voices that you will hear in "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC." We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Judy Richardson and Maria Varela. Both of them are former SNCC members, both of them contributors to the book. Judy Richardson is one of the co-editors of the book. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:27:55

    NNAMDIWe're discussing this history of women in the civil rights movement, specifically in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the book, "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC." We're talking with Judy Richardson, a woman in the civil rights movements, and a former member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC. She's a contributor and co-editor of the book.

  • 12:28:10

    NNAMDIMaria Varela was an organizer with SNCC. She is also a contributor to the book. Maria, when it comes to community organizing, you write that one of the principle challenges is that a lot of people are used to others, like teachers and preachers, speaking for them. What were some of the specific challenges in getting women to speak for themselves?

  • 12:28:44

    VARELAActually, I think, in a lot of ways, the -- when you look at the movement from community to community, it was really the women kind of like in church, you know, who kept it together. And it was the SNCC organizers who began to invite those women then to speak. And so with that respect you find in communities -- in Mexican-American communities, Native American and African-American communities, there is a respect that people that where they will not rise unless they are invited often.

  • 12:29:19

    VARELAAnd so that's one of the great things that SNCC organizers did was to invite people who typically never would be considered spokespersons to speak at different rallies or to take leadership in a, you know, a voter registration kind of campaign.

  • 12:29:33

    NNAMDIAnd if these women were doing this to women in the south, obviously they saw reflected in their own organization some of the inequities. And Judy Richardson, you talk about the fact that female SNCC employees were always the one taking minutes at meetings. Tell us about how that, in a way, changed.

  • 12:29:50

    RICHARDSONYes. And I would -- I would mention also that that was in the national office. So it's coming out of the national office. Not so much would you find that in the field offices where women really were doing the same organizing as men most of the time. But in the office, I mean, I'm there, you know, Julian Bond was our communications director and Mary King was his assistant. Well, the women turned out -- first of all, I'm talking 90 words a minute, right, and I'm doing shorthand. So I suddenly realize I have 33 pages of minutes.

  • 12:30:22

    RICHARDSONAnd I got to -- this is in a time when, you know, you don't have faxes, you don't have printers and so we had a mimeograph machine and you had to do those green stencils and -- okay. So -- but a lot of the women in the office were saying, we don't want to be the only ones, you know, the men ought to be taking it. So Foreman went off on some fundraising trip and he came back and that's one of the photos -- oh, no, that's not in the book.

  • 12:30:44

    RICHARDSONBut anyway, there's a photo of the fact. He comes back and he sees us with picket signs. So mine says something about no justice -- no, Ruby Doris Robinson's says no justice -- no more work 'til justice comes to the Atlanta office, you know. And I say, no more minutes. And -- but the point was -- see, SNCC was young people and so we were not hardbound. We were not -- you could call the question, as we used to say.

  • 12:31:11

    RICHARDSONAnd you could basically say, well, we ain't taking the minutes any more, you know. And then, the guys would realize, oh, they're not going to do that. I guess we've got to do it, you know. There was a sense of -- they would -- there was a way that you could make things happen in SNCC -- male, female, because we were so on the vanguard. We were so much pushing the envelope in terms of the way we conceived the society.

  • 12:31:33

    NNAMDIAnd here's the other thing that Judy Richardson doesn't like, revisionist history.

  • 12:31:36


  • 12:31:37

    INTERVIEWERWhen "The Making of Black Revolutionaries," James Foreman's epic work was -- there was a new edition of it published and there was a reception for it in New York, Judy happened to note in the book that James Foreman did not quite tell that incident in the way that it happened. Tell us about that.

  • 12:31:54

    RICHARDSONYes. I was -- because I worked on the 14-hour series, "Eyes on the Prize." And so I was coming down from the second series and I took the train and I see this. And I still have the book. I have a big exclamation point. What? Because what he says is not that we organized it. He says that in this next edition, some of the women suggested that he explain about the sit-in in his office. And he said that he had proposed this -- that the women had come to him about how to deal with the sexism in the organization and so he said, let us role-play.

  • 12:32:28

    RICHARDSONYou role-play the sit-in in my office. And so he therefore did that. So I see him at the end. I go to the book signing. And at the end, it's just -- he and I, who are sitting there and I said, Foreman, you know it didn't happen that way. How could you say it that way? And he says, well, you know, we all have our way of looking at it. I said, but there's the right way and then there's your way. You know, I mean, it's like -- but it was also, you know, this was Jim Foreman. Am I going to argue with him all the way down? No.

  • 12:32:55

    NNAMDIAnd that is Judy Richardson. Oh, I got a note from my former colleague at Drum & Spear bookstore, Ivy Young of...

  • 12:33:01


  • 12:33:01

    NNAMDI...of (word?) reminding us that Judy Richardson not only attended high school in Sleepy Hollow, but she played glockenspiel in the school band.

  • 12:33:10


  • 12:33:11

    NNAMDIIs that correct? Did Ivy...

  • 12:33:11

    RICHARDSONYeah. That's absolutely correct.

  • 12:33:13

    NNAMDIThanks, Ivy.

  • 12:33:13

    RICHARDSONI say glockenspiel, it actually means bells. Thank you, Ivy.

  • 12:33:17

    NNAMDIThank you very much for that, Ivy. Maria, you note that Ella Baker, one of SNCC's adult advisors, saw the radicalization of the organization coming down the pike. She said, quoting here, "We are going to have to think in more radical terms." Where do you think women fit into the eventual radicalization of the organization?

  • 12:33:37

    VARELAI think -- when I'm thinking about the radicalization of the organization, it was that for a while we thought, the problem here is that the leaders of this country do not understand U.S. apartheid. If we can just show them this, they will really, you know, make the Constitution work in this country. And what happened to us, and I think what Ms. Baker meant, was that they -- our faith was broken with this country around 1964.

  • 12:34:11

    VARELAI mean, we realized that with all the illegal things that happened at the Atlantic City Democratic...

  • 12:34:18

    NNAMDIThe Mississippi Freedom Democratic party at the...

  • 12:34:19


  • 12:34:19

    NNAMDI... the Atlantic City convention of the Democratic party.

  • 12:34:22

    VARELAWho were not seated, who really if you look at the sort of -- what is expected of a state Democratic party, they met -- they fit the bill. The racists in the Mississippi Democratic party did not. So all of this was beginning to break our faith where we realized you really, really -- if you want to change this country, I think this is true today. You really can't reform moribund institutions or broken institutions and that's what she meant. You go to the heart of it.

  • 12:34:54

    VARELAAnd part of broken institutions is sort of the role that women play in this society. And while there is the appearance that women have come a long way, in many ways, just like with racism, we haven't really made that huge change.

  • 12:35:10

    NNAMDII'm glad you mentioned that because we got this e-mail from Nicholas in Arlington. "President Obama managed to inspire a lot of teenagers and young adults in 2008, but most are now dismayed and becoming apathetic because they aren't seeing the change they voted for. How did you guys keep your energy and enthusiasm going when change wasn't coming fast enough and what specific advice do you have for young people trying to make a change today?" Judy?

  • 12:35:36

    RICHARDSONFor me, that's two parts.

  • 12:35:36

    NNAMDIHow to handle disappointment, yeah.

  • 12:35:37

    RICHARDSONYes, exactly. But it's also about -- you know, I'm disappointed, too, because I had assumed certain things about the administration and so -- but I am going to vote. I mean, I do think -- let me just say, given the alternative, that is untenable, unconscionable. These are crazy people out there. So you got to vote. But one of the things is knowing that change really does take a long time.

  • 12:35:59

    RICHARDSONI mean, I think that's what Maria is talking about. We assume that if you did thus and so and you had the United Auto Workers on your side and they gave you the cars, that they were going to -- they understood the same vision that you did of this world and this country and stuff. But, no, they didn't, you know. And the other thing we understood is that it's -- politics isn't about morality, it's about power. And one of the things we realized that we had to do is that you had to change the power relationships.

  • 12:36:26

    RICHARDSONSo, you know, the problem is that, you know, the Obama administration kind of forgot about the youth after they got elected. And now, they're going back, trying to backtrack on it. And it is important that they vote. But what we realized also is that you have to keep the pressure on. You cannot assume that this man, who is, I think, at heart a good man -- and some of the people in his administrations are good people. You can't assume they're going to do the right thing.

  • 12:36:47

    NNAMDII'm afraid that's all the time we have. The book is called "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC." Judy Richardson is, as she always was, the most perky, energetic person I have ever met in my life. She's a film maker and a former member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, she is a contributor and co-editor of the book "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC." Marie Varela was an organizer with SNCC and a contributor to the book. Thank you both for joining us. We're gonna take a short break.

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The Politics Hour — March 16, 2018

Friday, Mar 16 2018Maryland Senator Ben Cardin joins us to talk about the youth movement against gun violence, Russian sanctions, and more. D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh shares her thoughts on relief for high water bills and news that D.C. Public Schools is taking over an all girls charter school.