Interview with Ivanhoe Donaldson

AT . [overlap].

Ivanhoe Donaldson:

Oh, well—the Selma-Montgomery march has some history to it. SNCC has, was, had an organizing project, a literacy project and a voter registration project in Selma starting in late ‘61 but really developed in 1962. Colia Liddell and Lafayette, Bernard Lafayette were involved in running that project and then Maria Varela joined them over there at a later point in time and worked on the literacy program. It was in the traditional SNCC mode where you went in and you sought out people and you tried to organize a local base. There also was an SCLC affiliate in Selma run by Mrs. Boynton and the two groups worked in harmony. And after the Mississippi-Selma project and a number of other actions it became very important to the civil rights movement for major drama. These dramas were usually for the benefit of political leadership, the White House, the Congress, to force ahead the Voting Rights Act and SCLC decided that the drama from their point of view ought to be a Selma-Montgomery march with national personalities coming in from all over the country to join this march, etc., etc. The local organizers, activists within SCLC–-excuse me—wanted to move ahead and do this march right away. As you had a tendency in the organization for the activists and the organizers who want to move fast and for the planners and the leadership to wanna maybe take a little bit more time to determine what's the best way to do this. John Lewis, ah, well when SCLC decided to move ahead with the march there was some people in SNCC who felt that the march on Washington as a national drama point was not all it should have been and therefore they were a little bit turned off of any other major marches. There was a cynicism—everybody got their march and SNCC in fact, in some ways the Selma march became identified with me. I was SNCC coordinator on the Selma-Montgomery march. John went over to join the demonstrators and to be SNCC's representative on the scene. That's why he was involved with Hosea Williams—not Hosea Williams—I can't remember who but he was the co-partner in leading the first march to the Petit bridge that got turned around and violence occurred. That same afternoon Jim Forman sent up Courtland Cox, Stokely Carmichael and myself to Selma to join with Silas Norman who was already on the scene and I think John Love to organize the SNCC outreach capabilities in Selma to create for a bigger and a broader platform for the march which came off the following week. And Willie Ricks and other organizers joined us. [overlap]


(Camera Roll 16)

Ivanhoe Donaldson:

So, John Lewis in fact wasn't really the only SNCC person that was in Selma at the time. The whole SNCC project was there involving about 5 or 6 other organizers. John as the chairman and as a national personality and the youngest speaker at the March on Washington was sort of commentated as a media personality in, in leadership of the march but there were a lot of SNCC people there on the scene.