Interview with Ivanhoe Donaldson


Ivanhoe Donaldson:

Well there had been a great deal of dialogue within SNCC about the nature of the summer project. The SNCC executive committee and the national leadership,the Atlanta based national leadership by and large were strong advocates for a summer project and Bob Moses, the director of the Mississippi summer project, was also an, a supporter of this. People felt that it would bring greater visibility, greater resources, and allow for an impact that could not happen by any other mode. Prior to that summer project, some time I think in the very early spring Bob convened a staff meeting of all the field secretaries, no I'm wrong—sometime that winter, the winter of 63, 64, there was a staff meeting held in Greenville. I say winter because it was a warm day but I'm pretty sure it was in the winter,to talk about the summer project. Now there was a great deal of resistance from the Mississippi staff about the summer project on a lot of scores-some of them historical, some of them concerned about the fundamentals of organizing. The SNCC staff in the Mississippi along with staff from other organizations that were there—there were people who really operated within the SNCC aura in many ways in Mississippi-resisted the summer project on a number of accounts. One, a lot of organizers felt that if you had whites in the state, it make it more difficult to organize, and there were principle differences there. People felt if you had sophisticated, young white college kids organizing in the state that that would in some ways take away responsibilities that local community people were doing and doing well. That the issue was whether or not you wanted a letter typed efficient, efficient, efficiently or whether you wanted to get people to begin to participate in doing things which affected organizational building, outreach, you know, and all of the intimacies which go on with building community organizations and community institutions. So there was some serious concerns and some people felt it was, you know kind of a pied piper thing—you know it would be sudden, it would be over, it would be glamorous, that that you get these nice middle class kids, white kids, from all over the country coming to Mississippi and the question is how productive ah, that would be. And there was critical concern. People felt that there were areas of Mississippi you couldn't go in with white people and that you know SNCC staff people could get killed, CORE, NAACP people, and there was a lot of concern about it, and a lot of resistance to it. In fact, if, I don't remember if there was a formal vote, but I would say in retrospect, a feeling ah, that if there was not a formal vote, there was a clear consensus within the Mississippi staff of SNCC resistance to this program. The SNCC executive committee met later on and reversed the general direction the Mississippi staff was in. In behalf of going forward, the project. And Bob pretty much led people to accept his decision that that's what we need to do and that was the way to go. But there was clearly concern that this project might be too much, too overwhelming, and maybe not leave enough substance in the kind of work that organizers need to do which is slow and tedious and painful and also quite life threatening, you know, in the Mississippi of 1963.