Interview with Cleveland Sellers
QUESTION 19
INTERVIEWER:

But you had violence in Canton and Philadelphia, can you talk about that violence?

CLEVELAND SELLERS:

Well in, in Canton, ah, I can talk about it. I was not in Canton. I, I would probably prefer to talk about what happened in Philadelphia.

INTERVIEWER:

What was that?

CLEVELAND SELLERS:

Well Philadelphia was the area where Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney had been killed, the summer of '64 and it was an area that, that I personally had been in because I went in there to try to look for the bodies in, in the summer of '64. And, ah, we felt a kind of, of bitterness about Philadelphia because we knew that, ah, they were murdered but there was not going to be any justice done. So we felt like we needed to go back to Philadelphia even though the march was coming down the, the eastern part of the state of Mississippi. We felt it important to, to move over to Philadelphia and make a statement. And we did that. And we went into Philadelphia and as I remember Martin King was kneeling and praying and, and all of the people who went to Philadelphia, we had a little, short march. We were kneeling down and praying. And, ah, I, I remember, ah, ah, Dr. Abernathy, ah, giving the prayer and he was saying something to the effect of "Let us pray for those who have murdered our comrades, our friends, and wherever they may be." And over from out of the back you heard this response saying, "Well, we're standing right over here." And that was quite terrifying because you knew that that was a serious retort because we're talking about the sheriffs and the deputies who were involved and many of the outstanding citizens. So, at that point, people recognized that the situation was turning. We had absolutely no protection from the local police authority, the State Police authority or the federal government. So we felt like it was important for us to try to turn around and ease out of that community. But what, what happened there was, I think Martin King became really, ah, an eye witness to the violent nature of Mississippi and how hostile the place could be. And we were able to get out of there before anybody was hurt seriously. There were some scuffles that took place. But we just got out of there barely with our lives, we feel. And, ah, that began to, to change the dynamic and get people to understand the nature of the struggle and the commitment and dedication on the part of many SNCC people who had to work under those conditions for long, long, long periods of the time without any kind of outlet. And, ah, we were able to, to change, ah, Mississippi and to talk about a social movement. We were able to develop one in Mississippi and so we, we, we, ah, we came out of, out of Philadelphia and we went on back to the major march area and continued to march into Jackson.