For a sense of the civil liberties challenges faced by an effective organizer, see this cluster of four related pages:


The Northeastern North Carolina Black-Belt Project, which burst forth with rapidly growing claws and feathers in the mid-1960s, had a major impact on that far-flung racist and poverty-stricken [Deep South in every sense!] multi-county section of the state -- as well as on the entire state itself and the region well beyond.  Yet it received, aside from much often hostile local and regional press coverage, little enduring publicity.  One of the reasons was that it, in an obscure corner of the South, was frequently overshadowed by events in more publicized regions of the Deep South.  Another -- especially to those academic and popular historians deemed revisionist -- is that its primary sponsor was the left Southern Conference Educational Fund and its principal organizer was myself. I should add that, from the point that I was honorably released from the United States Army after a full hitch at the beginning of 1955, just turning 21, I have been my own kind of ecumenical socialist with consistency. I belonged to the IWW from the very beginning of 1955 well into 1960 -- and have remained always a rather quintessential  Wobbly.  At the same time, my deepest waters have always been Iroquoian -- with its traditional bent toward careful organization with democratic form and structure and ethos.

In any event, the public mention of this critical and sometimes wild crusade has been relatively minimal.  In my own book, Jackson Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism [1979 and 1987], my necessarily trenchant epilogue, covering my life since Jackson to the end of the '70s, spends the better part of three pages on our Carolina Black-Belt struggle.  Willa [Johnson] Cofield, who with other members of her family, was among the key leaders in Halifax County, our starting point and the most major of several related battlefields, contributed a chapter containing a discussion of our saga in a quite interesting anthology [Cathy L. Nelson and Kim A. Wilson, editors, Seeding the Process of Multi-Cultural Education [Plymouth, MN: Minnesota Inclusiveness Program, 1998.]  These editors and Willa all honored us with a long visit at our Idaho home in 1998.

I, myself, have written some pieces on the Project -- e.g., the J.P. Stevens Textile boycott and its background in the Halifax County mill town of Roanoke Rapids, the United Klans of America, Jesse Helms -- which have been published in good and honorable radical journals.  This website of ours, Lair of Hunterbear, contains much stuff on the Black-Belt fight. But, despite the strong commitment of the grassroots people [mostly Black but many Indians as well], the high drama, the firm backing always of our SCEF executive director Jim Dombrowski and the often involvement of Ella J. Baker [herself a SCEF staffer at that point who had grown up in Halifax County], the [non-violent] War in the Black-Belt has received little notice.

I have been doing a great deal of writing these past two years.  It began in December, 2003, several months after I was struck openly by systemic lupus or SLE -- described by medical authorities as "a deadly disease" -- and an especially virulent version at that.  Genetic in origin, with no cure, it strikes Native Americans, Blacks, Hispanics, and women in a hard and disproportionate fashion.  After several hospital sojourns and very close brushes with death, I had -- in late December 2003 -- an extraordinarily vivid "dream" about which I immediately wrote.  "Ghosts" concluded with this:

And then I was suddenly  awake -- in my bed on the far western frontier of
Pocatello. It was dawn and the half light was gone. I was weak, utterly weak
and felt generally like Hell.  My one-half Bobcat, Cloudy, nuzzled me,
Eldri was cooking breakfast and my daughter, Maria, handed me a huge cup of
super strong black coffee.

My head, as always was very clear.

"If you had to choose," my newspaper son Peter asked a few days ago,
"between physical health  on the one hand and your thinking and writing
ability on the other, which would you take?"

"My mind always," I replied.

And what I do know is that it's critical to keep fighting -- and to always
remember that if one lives with grace he/she should be prepared to die with

How much time do I have?  Maybe lots, maybe not much.

But I'd like, too,  within the now somewhat narrowed borders of my
canyon-of-life, to help others do some good things as well. Let me know.

In the mountains of southeastern Idaho.

So with my Earthly prospects admittedly speculative, I have been doing quite a bit of autobiographical writing.  Some has appeared on discussion lists, some is on our Lair website, some has not yet been publicized.  What follows here is not, by any means, any sort of inclusive history of our truly large-scale Black-Belt campaign. Some is very freshly written, other stuff was done by me within the past very few years and is given in that verbatim form, and we have a cohesive and sequential bloc of around twenty appropriate pages on our website -- in addition to that which is sprinkled around thereon. [A number of helpful Links follow in due course.] In time, assuming I have that, I will feather out this basic sketch.


I joined the staff of SCEF as its Field Organizer in late Summer, 1963.  Jim Dombrowski asked that I be based near the Eastern Seaboard part of the South, and encouraged North Carolina.  We moved into an all-Black neighborhood at Raleigh and set up shop.  From there I traveled into various Southern places of civil rights significance, spoke in a few Yankee settings such as the annual meeting of United Negro College Fund up in New York, had -- with Ella Baker as my fine colleague -- a splendid "Western trip" into the Midwest and Southwest. [A year later, I did a shorter solo run in the Mountain States.]  On the Virginia Southside, I spent a week assisting Moses Riddick in his successful run for a key Nansemond County office -- against the Byrd Machine.  I traveled to various arenas in the Deeper South.

And then I got to Halifax County in the Northeastern Carolina Black-Belt, initially taken there by the intrepid Rev. A.I. Dunlap, who had been a major figure in the hard-fought 1963 movement at Danville, Virginia -- well to the northwest.  And as I have written elsewhere on Lair of Hunterbear:
In very early 1964,  I launched a major SCEF-sponsored project:  cracking
the rigidly segregated, thoroughly repressive, Klan-infested northeastern
North Carolina Black Belt -- containing some of the most poverty-stricken
counties in the United States.  This hard-core region had been isolated from
the main currents of the Civil Rights Movement.  Our SCEF Director -- Jim
Dombrowski -- backed us to the hilt;  as did  the SCEF President, the
Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth.   Valuable support was provided by Ms. Ella
J. Baker, a nationally known Black activist and Special Consultant to SCEF,
who had herself grown up in that particular   locale.  The editor of the
SCEF newspaper, The Southern Patriot, Ms. Anne Braden, provided valuable
regional and national publicity for us.  Up North, the SCEF fund-raiser, the
Reverend William Howard Melish, was extremely helpful.

We started with Halifax County.  Opposition was tough and violent.  With
hard work (among other things, at one point I spoke to over 120 community
meetings in 90 days), boycotts,  non-violent  demonstrations, and litigation
in Federal courts -- and, in time, political leverage -- we  were
increasingly successful.  And then we moved across the Black Belt, county by

Clyde Appleton on the BWB list, led the singing at our large
and historic Black Belt conference ["Civil Rights and Anti-Poverty" ] at
Indian Woods Baptist in Bertie Co.,  early March 1965, which drew about
1,050 people from 14 Black Belt counties -- plus several from some outlying
areas.  Ella Baker was keynote speaker.

This fine statement by a key and extremely capable Halifax Co. Movement
leader and old friend, Willa Cofield, is in our website and has been on our Tribute since soon
after its inception early in 2004:


". . .I'd like to share my own impression of John Salter, whom I first saw
on a 1963 television newscast being mercilessly pummeled by a group of white
men.  The attack took place during a Black student demonstration in Jackson,
Mississippi.  A few months later, John appeared in my rural, eastern North
Carolina community, where we Black people were staging our  own

Originally from Flagstaff, Arizona and part-Indian, he was young, intense,
smart and completely committed to social justice.

Salter's civil rights record, his obvious sincerity, as well as his
willingness to take on the local racists, soon won over the most skeptical
among us.  For over a year, he worked in our community, facing daily death
threats, abuse, and the virulent hatred of local white people.

With John Salter's help, we initiated a countywide voter registration drive,
and when local officials set up obstacles, John convinced a battery of
topnotch lawyers to challenge the county board of elections in court.  Our
side won.   For the first time since the disenfranchisement of Blacks in the
late nineteenth century, thousands of eastern North Carolina Blacks

In the 1980s, those voters helped send two Black men to the North Carolina
Legislature.  In 1992, they sent Eva Clayton, a Black woman, to Congress
where she served for many years.

John Salter was not present for the victory celebration or for the happy bus
trip to Raleigh for the inauguration of Thomas C. Hardaway as Representative
from our District, but many of the bus passengers recalled Salter's
courageous work during the 1960s. He had helped break the fierce Southern
wall of resistance, thereby setting the stage for the Voting Rights Act and
the election of Black people to local, state, and federal legislative

John drove with us the morning six of our children, including my own
six-year-daughter, integrated the local white school.  He found lawyers and
financial support, and we successfully battled the school officials and
politicians who tried to kill our movement by firing Black teachers.

In communities throughout the South, John Salter is remembered for his
selfless leadership and courage and as a man deeply and passionately opposed
to injustice.

Since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, I have met many of his former
Tougaloo College students.  All remember him with the greatest respect and

John has never flinched from taking  unpopular positions.  Those of us who
benefited from his determination to act upon what he believed right consider
that very quality a key factor in making him one of the truly great leaders
of our time.
Willa M. Cofield, Ph.D. Enfield, North Carolina and Plainfield,  New Jersey

And a kind note from Willa on February 20, 2008. after reading my essay,  Community Organizer - -

As Practitioner, Teacher, Writer [And Student]
Hi, Hunter -

Thanks for the recent E-mails.  I've just read your discussion of community organizing and marveled
at your wisdom, as well as the clarity of your ideas and your magic with words. I could almost picture
you striding to the front of the auditorium and laying it out 44 (can it be?) years ago.

I'm forwarding a document written by the chairperson of the Anti-war Committee of which I am a member. 

All the best,

In due course, we moved into adjoining counties -- and our organizing work area broadened  greatly.  As this statement of mine from a final report to the SCEF Board indicates, even our basic heartland [not even counting the further frontiers of our activities] encompassed a very wide region indeed:  "From Littleton in Halifax County to Windsor in Bertie County is about sixty miles straight [as the crow flies] and about seventy-five miles by road; Severn in Northampton County is about thirty-five miles straight and about fifty miles by road, from Enfield in Halifax County; Hollister in Halifax County is about sixty-five miles straight and about ninety-five miles by road from Colerain in Bertie County."


 A recent response of mine to an excellent question by William "Bill" Mandel:

From Hunter:

The rise of the Movement -- economic force and litigation and the civil
rights laws and voter activism -- broke the hard lines of resistance to
social change.  When the power of the Movement became obvious, pragmatism
[not necessarily the principled variety of William James] often took over
within the power structures.  Frequently, this initially sought tokenism
but, in the end, of course, the momentum of progress generally carried
things far beyond that.  Your recent North Carolina examples don't surprise
me [and one should remember, of course, that the late Sam Ervin, although
considered a "conservative," was a pretty good civil libertarian.]  There
are plenty of people in North Carolina, military and military families and
many others indeed, who join much of the rest of the country in its growing
antipathy toward the Bushies and All Their Wicked Ways.

Briefly using Halifax County, NC as an example, a Black county with a fairly
substantial number of American Indians therein, the time came in latter '64
during our One Hell of a Fight on several fronts when I got a surprise
telephone call from  former State Senator Lunsford Crew,  representing the state
Democratic Party.  He was in Raleigh but his home town was Roanoke Rapids in
the northern part of Halifax County.  That was also the home of a huge JP
Stevens textile plant -- whose later unionization provided the direct basis
for the fine labor film, Norma Rae. [We have always held that our Movement
helped lay the basis for that unionization which came some years later.]

With the exception of Sam Mitchell [Black], a fine lawyer based at Raleigh,
our lawyers were all from out of the South:  Bill Kunstler, Arthur Kinoy,
Phil Hirschkop, Morty Stavis, and others.  One of our Federal lawsuits,
eventually won when USSC denied cert to North Carolina, was Willa Johnson
[Cofield] vs Joseph Branch et al.  What made this especially interesting was
that Joe Branch, of Enfield, was State Campaign Manager for Democratic
gubernatorial candidate, Dan K. Moore.  We were suing him along with the
school board, for which he was attorney, since they all had fired Willa, a
long time and award-winning high school teacher at [Black] Inborden High
School in Enfield, in obvious retaliation for her consistently effective
civil rights activities.

Anyway, Senator Crew wanted to do business directly with me -- to the effect
that, if the Halifax Movement would agree to support the Democrats, and
especially at the state level [the Republicans were becoming powerful], he
could guarantee that a number of concessions would be made by the official
leaders of Halifax County. We had many brand new voters indeed and we also
had the Image which would influence other minority communities in the state.
He wanted me to handle that matter and indicated he would be quite satisfied
with my word [plus appropriate Movement leaflets as the election drew nigh.]

Pleasantly, I told Senator Crew that we didn't function that way at all and
that, in no sense, could I -- the Organizer -- make that kind of deal.  I
told him he would have to come directly to a meeting of our about 36 County
Chairmen [several were women, btw], and make his offer directly to them.  To
give him credit, he pluckily accepted my proposal to set the meeting up if
our Chairmen wanted to go that route.

We had a quick meeting of our County Chairmen at Enfield.  They voted to
give Senator Crew a solid and fair hearing.  We also, thoughtfully, prepared
a long shopping list of that which we wanted.  It ranged from official
anti-Klan action to acceptance of surplus commodities and a promise to
participate in the forthcoming Food Stamp plan when that was enacted,
substantial desegregation and minority hiring in county offices, and much
more.  And then we scheduled a meeting for the Senator.

Senator Crew came by himself to the Cofield Funeral Home [Willa's family] at
Enfield and he was there for three long hours.  He met our demands and we
all agreed to support the Democrats -- and, in due course, we issued sample
ballots with the Democratic candidates [all of them] properly Xd in the
appropriate boxes.  The Democrats won.  The Other Side in Halifax County
honored the agreement we all had reached.  There were many more miles to
travel in that tough county, and then in all the other tough counties
involved, but we had a Big Beginning.

In Solidarity - Hunter [Hunter Bear]


The link posted earlier this morning on ASDnet   -- "SCEF and CPUSA" -- is simply another instance of substantive misinformation. This is the case with the post's "label" -- and the historical outline given by the link [from whomever] is certainly replete with errors and omissions. The problems that confronted a rapidly waning SCEF in the early 1970s and beyond had nothing to do one way or the other with CPUSA -- which can certainly not be blamed for those!  These difficulties involved other  groups and issues of which I, frankly, know little.

Eldri and I, who had come into Mississippi in the ominous Summer of '61, left the South in the Summer of '67 and went into the Pacific Northwest and then, for an academic year, to Coe College in Iowa.  From 1969 to 1973, I directed the large-scale grassroots organization of block clubs and related groups [mostly Black, Puerto Rican, and Chicano] on Chicago's very bloody South/Southwest Side.  Also active in Native affairs and issues on the Northside, we organized the long-enduring, all-Indian Native American Community Organizational Training Center [of which I served for a number of years as Chair -- doing so for some time after we left Chicago.] Later, we were in Iowa again, then up-state New York, then the Navajo Nation -- and then to the Northern Plains -- and now to Idaho.  The organizing trail is very much a Romany trail.

SCEF, very broadly Left in a completely non-sectarian fashion,  grew out of the very fine Southern Conference on Human Welfare --  a courageous and interracial group of Southern liberals and some radicals originating in the New Deal era. SCEF had its most effective period from the onset of the 1950s to the retirement of its excellent executive director, Jim Dombrowski, at the end of 1965.

During that period, its splendid newspaper, The Southern Patriot, was very capably edited by Alfred Maund and later by the equally capable Anne Braden. [ Al Maund,  a good friend of mine, is a noted Southern writer and author of a great novel, The Big Boxcar,  and was also editor of Labor's Daily and later a key staffer of International Chemical Workers Union.]  The SCEF board was a fine interracial cross section of sensible Southern activists -- religious and labor and general social justice folk -- and its advisory committee extended into Arizona.   Aubrey Williams [a major Southern leader with a highly placed New Deal background]  served as its President for years and was later succeeded by the Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth of Birmingham [President of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and National Secretary of SCLC.]

My own activist links with SCEF began soon after Eldri and I arrived at Tougaloo in the Summer of '61.  Almost immediately I became Advisor to the Jackson Youth Council of NAACP and a member of the board of directors of the Mississippi State Conference of NAACP Branches.  When we launched our historic Jackson boycott in late 1962, SCEF -- especially through Jim and Anne Braden and Carl Braden -- gave us a great deal of invaluable assistance.  The very effective Jackson Boycott Movement became, in due organizing course, the massive and historic Jackson Movement in which youth played a major role at all points. I was Chair of its Strategy Committee.

 At the conclusion of the very hard-fought, super-dramatic and extremely sanguinary Jackson Movement era, Jim Dombrowski offered me the position of SCEF Field Organizer -- with the understanding that I could do my own thing pretty much in any way I wished.  I was pleased to accept.  We set my salary at the precise salary figure drawn  from NAACP by my  very good friend, the recently murdered Medgar Evers:  $6,500.00 with some expenses and benefits. At the same time I joined SCEF, my very good friend, Miss Ella J. Baker, founder and Advisor to SNCC [who had been SCLC's first Executive Director], accepted Jim's offer of an ongoing position as Consultant.  I was instrumental, with Jim's enthusiastic concurrence, in securing the New York law firm of Kunstler, Kunstler and Kinoy [known affectionately as KKK] as SCEF's counsel. [Bill Kunstler had already represented me in several key Mississippi cases.]

Much was certainly accomplished by SCEF during the next two years or so.  I worked in grassroots civil rights and anti-Klan organization in several very hard-core  Deep Southern areas. Ella played a critical role in liaison work with SNCC and other projects and gave me much assistance at key points. Carl Braden did a great deal of valuable, on-going work with Northern supporters -- and was much involved in Appalachian affairs.  A key fund-raising role was carried by Howard Melish.  Through The Southern Patriot, Anne Braden reported Southern civil rights news -- much of which would otherwise have been obscure -- to a national and international audience and gave much media-linkage assistance to  a wide variety of grassroots civil rights projects.

Jim Dombrowski, severely crippled by illness [but he marched in the SCLC demonstrations at Danville, Virginia], continued to very capably hold down the SCEF national office on 822 Perdido Street, New Orleans.  [My old Chicano Mine-Mill companeros were always intrigued by that address since it, of course, translates into "Nowhere."]  During this period, we were constantly Red-baited and attacked on many fronts -- including the notorious Louisiana Un-American Activities Committee/State Police raid on the New Orleans SCEF office in October 1963, the arrest of Jim and two other SCEF officials, the seizure of the SCEF records -- and their illegal shipment by train into Mississippi where they were then taken by Mississippi Senator Jim Eastland and his U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee.  SCEF sued and, in 1965, won a total victory at the USSC level:  Dombrowski v. Pfister.

At the end of 1965, Jim retired as SCEF director and Anne and Carl Braden became co-directors.  At the point Jim retired, Ella and I both left.  She, of course, continued to work with SNCC and related projects and I continued my organizing work in the South -- in radical grassroots anti-poverty activism [much support from Highlander Research and Education Center.]  Ella and I and Jim kept in very close touch, always, both during this period and thereafter all the way through.  Jim died at New Orleans in 1983 and Ella passed away in NYC in 1986. I miss them much indeed.

After our departure, SCEF hired a much larger number of staff people than had formerly been the case -- essentially on subsistence "Movement wages." In time, internal difficulties developed.

The major SCEF papers are at State Historical Society of Wisconsin:  Jim's collected papers, those of the Bradens, and mine -- including my organizing reports plus much secured from FBI via FOIA/PA.  [My papers are also held by Mississippi Department of Archives and History.]  A very good biography of Jim was done by another good friend of mine and I strongly recommend it: Frank Adams'  James A. Dombrowski: An American Heretic [Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, 1992.]

I personally have copies [many of them originals] of my basic organizing materials and detailed reports from over these many decades.

I have a fair amount of material on SCEF organizationally at our large website  -- stemming from our part of its extremely productive period -- and a good deal relating to my own work as SCEF Field Organizer.  It all starts at this point .

Fraternally -

Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'

I regularly and with some frequency filed very long, detailed letter/reports to Jim Dombrowski on my organizing activities in the Black-Belt.  These, along with related materials from the somewhat later "anti-poverty wars," have been an invaluable resource for me over the many, many years that have followed.  Initially, they dealt with the formative organizing period [for a time I was assisted by J.V. Henry and Doug Harris of SNCC -- but mostly I was the sole "professional".]  Quickly, succeeding reports move into the exciting realms of massive voter registration campaigns, economic boycotts, non-violent direct action, our litigation in a number of cases [almost exclusively in Federal courts], and bitter resistance from the Klan, Birch Society, and the North Carolina Defenders of States' Rights [White Citizens Council.]

Two of my major latter reports not only provide summarization -- but also give a specific category-by-category breakdown of our specific action areas and their successful development:

For the SCEF Board  Meeting of April 15-16 1965 at Atlanta, I presented a  detailed five page single-spaced report.

At Jim's request, I wrote again for the SCEF Board a long and detailed wrap up on the whole Black-Belt project which, with a long covering letter, I sent on October 5 1965: 12 double spaced legal sized pages. [In addition, I also attached the previous report to the Board of April '65]

An important piece of my writing during this period is, Organizing The Community For Action , March 1965 and several subsequent editions [six tightly spaced legal-sized pages] --  part of the basis for my much later Combined Community Organizing catechism in January 2004 [With Addenda]. That "catechism" has now been widely reprinted in various print journals and websites.

In my long covering letter to Jim with that final report, I expressed our great appreciation to the SCEF Board and its officers and to the staff.   And I explicitly noted, "This work in the black-belt counties would not have gone as well as it did had it not been for the whole-hearted backing of SCEF.  We are mighty indebted to you and to Ella."

And, years later, Jim wrote an extremely strong, kind statement for my career reference file at Arizona State University. It was written carefully with pen and ink.  The original is shown in the bloc of North Carolina Black-Belt material on our website and is also on the large Tribute:


JAMES ANDERSON DOMBROWSKI [d. 1983]  Director, Southern Conference Educational Fund.  From a vigorously positive letter of reference [9/17/79]:

"Mr. Salter is an unusual and many talented person.  He is a careful scholar, writes and speaks well, relates easily to all kinds of people, understands and practices the art of listening.  He has few peers as a community organizer.

For those and other reasons, I hold Mr Salter in the highest esteem, professionally and socially."

James Anderson Dombrowski, PhD, Executive Director, Southern Conference Educational Fund [Ret.]


The basic sections in my report to the SCEF Board, April 15/16  1965:


Halifax County Voters Movement

Political Action [First Portion]

School Desegregation

Retreat of the County Officials

The Towns


Public Accomodations

Attacks on Non-Literacy

The Willa Johnson Teaching Case

Anti-Poverty Program



Change in the Attitude of the Whites

Political Action [Second Portion]

The Enfield and Weldon Gerrymandering

School Transfers [First Portion]


Black-Belt Counties Workshop/Conference

Bertie County


Political Action [Third Portion]

The First Successful Effort on Federal Food [Our mass demonstration at the Bertie courthouse]

School Transfers [Second Portion]

Bertie KKK

Northampton County [and other adjoining areas]

Impact on the State and Region


The basic sections of my report to the SCEF Board, October 5  1965:

General Organization

School Desegregation

Operation Head Start


Bertie Co. School System

Political Action


Ku Klux Klan and Allied Activities

Hospital Complaints


Food Stamps

Public Accomodations


Bi-Racial Committees

Outside Contacts

Other Aspects During This Latter Period

Involvement of SNCC

Some Continued Contact

Impact on the State and the Region



We have a great deal of Mississippi material on our Lair of Hunterbear website.  What follows here is some SCEF and North Carolina material -- and then some high spots from some of the other many human rights campaigns that followed over the many years:  [The initial, key link to 20 consecutive, sequential pages covering basics in the Northeastern North Carolina Black-Belt Project.  Included is some SCEF material and three pages with photos [taken by J.V. Henry] of our historic Black Belt Conference, March, 1965.  [I was the speaker at Superior, Arizona in late 1963 -- a very long gathering indeed, heavily attended from a dozen, often widely scattered Mine-Mill copper locals, and sponsored by the Arizona Mine-Mill Council. [North Carolina and Jesse Helms. [Major, Southwide United Klans of America Rally in the Black-Belt and our effective non-violent counter-Klan activism. [Chicago Organizing:  Tough, Cat-Clawing and Bloody. [Chicago, more. [The Church and social justice organizing.  [Algonquin Migrant Fur Workers:  organizing and action  [The Algonquins at Bennett's Camp.  [Our Chicago-based Native American Community Organizational Training Center.'s%20Lake.htm [Racism in the Northern Plains:  Some Native Rights high spots.  [Lumbee Indians seek Federal recognition and social justice.


I love your writing and your great example and good work.  I work with the
Shinnecock Nation here in Southampton, NY.

Best, Bob Zellner [long time SNCC worker]
 Posted in the "Our Stories" section. Let me know if you need any changes.

Keep on trucking

--bruce  [hartford], webmaster of Civil Rights Movement Veterans
As always , I enjoyed reading your writings.
Mary Ann [Mary Ann Hall Winters] [Tougaloo College activist in the "old days"]
Thank you for the interesting reading material in today's email.
Jyri Kokonen [Finland]


[Excerpt from a letter to a friend.]
By the spring of '65, our Northeastern NC Black Belt project was well established.  Also at that time, SCLC launched its SCOPE  project [Summer Community Organization and Political Education] -- bringing a fairly sizeable number of northern volunteers into the South.  It was obviously influenced by SNCC's example the preceding summer in Mississippi. Part of the SCOPE contingent came to our region and, its director, Hosea Williams [a very key SCLC staffer], decided it would be easier to "take over" our project rather than organize the unorganized in other parts of Eastern NC.  We were, of course, very resistant to this raid and, soon enough, substantial red-baiting came from the SCOPE leadership in the region, especially from Williams.  When all of this began, and we fought to hold our fort against SCOPE [aware that the average SCOPE person was a "good kid", though poorly trained and ill-instructed], I protested to SCLC through Fred Shuttleworth its national secretary and also SCEF president; and I also protested through CT Vivian, SCLC's director of affiliates and a key SCEF board member.  Each, although sympathetic, said they had no control over Williams and his raiding venture.  Our lines held firm -- out of a vast number of Black churches in the context of our multi-county project, all save one closed their doors to the raiders,  After a month of this standoff, Wiley Branton of the Voter Education Project [Southern Regional Council],  a funding source for SCOPE, and generally no friend of SCEF, but who had decided, a year before, that I personally and organizer-wise was quite OK, arranged for Norman Hill [IUD AFL-CIO and much more -- David McReynolds certainly knows of him] to come into the situation to determine the facts.  Hill came to a meeting of our local leaders gathered in Bertie County.  His rented car went into a muddy ditch and we met him initially by helping him get it to dry ground.  Within an hour, he had high praise for the work of all of us and indicated he would see that the SCOPE raid ended. He did so immediately upon returning North.  That ended that, which had taken up much of my time for a month.  But it should never have happened and the fact that it did was an indication of serious structural problems then becoming endemic within SCLC. [As you have gathered, I am neither a "vanguard" type nor a centralist, but the SCOPE mess should never have happened.]



And we are very proud of North Carolina tonight.  Beba, of course, was born at Raleigh. I worked several hours away within our multi-county Northeastern Black Belt Project, often getting home only infrequently.  When we began in the Black Belt, it was well nigh impossible for Blacks and Indians to even try to register to vote in that region -- let alone actually vote.  Thanks to what became thousands of people in that wild but well organized crusade, and despite every kind of opposition, all of that and much more of the old order changed, and changed damn fast.  Nice to feel we all had a small part in the welcome victory tonight.



I was privileged to receive a most kind letter from a Ms. B. -- who lived in Halifax County in the old days, went north with her husband for several years in 1963 before we began our great Movement in the Northeastern North Carolina Black Belt counties, and then returned many years ago.  She is now much involved in doing  research on slavery, the plantation owners, poverty, the segregation days, schools, churches, our Movement and its activists, and also the role of the NAACP in the Black Belt.  Among other things, my response gives a few suggestions for further research.
Dear Ms. B.
It's very good indeed to hear from you.  I've been involved in a number of social justice struggles but our long, tough fight in Northeastern North Carolina is always one very close to my heart.  Your obviously committed interest is extremely commendable. And, from many standpoints, you are obviously well qualified! I'm very pleased that you all have found our website material useful -- letters like yours make it worthwhile -- and you can feel free to use anything thereon which would be useful to you in your projects.  I ask only that you credit myself and the Lair of Hunterbear website.
Ella Baker was a dear friend of ours from around the point we were first in the Deep South [Mississippi] , we worked closely together when I was the Field Organizer for the Southern Conference Educational Fund, I saw her a number of times thereafter, and we kept in touch until her passing in the mid-1980s [1986, I believe.]  We sat in rocking chairs at her home at Littleton, which she continued to own; and we visited at her Harlem apartment.  She and I were a speaking team in Midwestern and Western states for six weeks in late '63 and we shared the same scenery in some interesting civil rights happenings in the South.
The NAACP  state office in North Carolina, based pretty much at Charlotte [Kelly Alexander, president] and also, I think at Winston Salem [Charles McClain [sp ?], its field secretary], was not interested in those days in Eastern North Carolina -- the rural areas east of Raleigh. The key state NAACP officers rarely got into those regions and virtually never into the Northeastern Black Belt counties where, as you know, things were as tough as things could get in the way of poverty, segregation, repression.  There were brave local NAACP units in those eastern regions but they went largely unserviced by the state NAACP and tended to be quite small.  But, despite these handicaps -- in no sense their fault -- they kept alive the sparks of dissidence.  Attorney Floyd McKissick [Mack] at Durham was identified with the national NAACP and he, who became a very good friend of mine, had given some assistance to folks in the eastern regions.  About the time I entered the scene, late in '63 and in full force from early '64 onward, Mack had shifted to CORE, first as its national chair, later its national director, and worked primarily in that vein on a national basis.
When I first saw the Northeastern Black Belt, it was a dismal situation with one signal and extremely important area of exception: the tremendous spirit of the grassroots people with whom I spoke.  They convinced me that much of my time as an organizer would be well spent and much appreciated -- and so I dug in and we all fought Dragons, together in solidarity, for a long tough campaign which, as you've noted from my material, successfully cracked the hardcore Northeastern Blackbelt counties.  [The organization for which I was Field Organizer [and Ms, Baker, the Consultant] -- SCEF -- was not a membership group beyond its Southwide board of directors, advisory committee, and staff.  In other words, we were not competing with NAACP.]
In a very real way, of course, I have always been a Shane-type, the lone and migratory organizer. [You've probably seen that great Western film.]
And the local NAACP units in the Blackbelt were as happy to work with us as we with them.  As our county movements grew -- e.g., the Halifax County Voters Movement -- the local NAACP units also grew.  And other efforts came to sprout -- as the movements rolled on and things changed vastly for the better.
I may have met Dr James Tinsley -- but, if so, he was no longer active [and he may have passed by the time I arrived.]  I did work closely with the very active social justice couple at Weldon, Dr Salter Cochran [MD] and his wife, Doris.  I do recall meeting, again at Weldon, Dr Tinsley's son, then a lawyer based up North, when he came down for a visit.  Mr A.C. Cofield at Weldon and Mr Thomas Cofield at Enfield were always extremely supportive of our work -- and Willa Cofield [Johnson] and her husband, Reed, were true mainstays.  There were many others in Halifax County and across that whole multi-county Blackbelt region.
I spoke several times in the Haliwa setting and many Indian people came into our Halifax Movement.  And there were other Indians in Northampton, Bertie and Hertford counties and some adjoining areas who did likewise.
The considerable amount of North Carolina material in our website gives a good overview, major developments, some detail.  There is considerably more on all of this in my collected papers in the National Social Action Collection at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 816 State Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53706. [This is a major national repository.]  This includes my field reports, memos, letters, telegrams, leaflets -- all sorts of relevant stuff from the Blackbelt struggle.  You could get copies of those things -- but they'd charge, and probably too damn much by this time.  Another possibility would be contacting the North Carolina Dept of Archives and History and asking them to secure a microfilm of the North Carolina stuff in my collection at Wisconsin.  Years ago, about 1983, as my basic collection was gathered at Madison, I wrote to Raleigh and suggested they seek a microfilm.  The North Carolina archivist was very open to this but, for whatever reason, turned out to be unable to get approval from his agency -- NC Archives and History -- to purchase a microfilmed copy of my Blackbelt stuff.  I had sent the archivist a smallish sample of my material, he had been glad to get that, listed that in their publication, and that small batch is probably still available for viewing.  But many years have come and gone since 1983 and there may now be sufficient interest at Raleigh to get a copy of my material from that long and momentous struggle.
Dr Willa Cofield now lives at Plainfield, NJ -- a long-time PhD in Urban Planning.  She is active and her address is:
I am sure she'd be delighted to hear from you.  She has done a great deal of historical research into the Blackbelt region.
Again, I'm delighted to hear from you.  If I can be of any further assistance, don't hesitate to ask.
Our very best,
Hunter Gray [John R Salter Jr]
Nice note; wish more people would take the time to thank you for the lives they're able to live now.
Dr. Gray,
I shall forever treasure this e-mail from a giant whom God has blessed to be a continuous advocate and legendary figure. Nothing is any sadder than the famous movie line "Shane, please don't go Shane."  I inherited my love of western genres from my dear deceased dad.  . .


[This post is in part is excerpted from an older one of mine -- based on a cordial interchange with Bill Mandel.
By the early '60s, things had become a little "easier" in parts of Virginia -- though not in other parts.  Voter registration of Blacks and Indians was beginning to come.  South of the Virginia border -- e.g., the North Carolina Black Belt counties, things were as rough and tough as things could get: rampant poverty, rigid segregation, multi-faceted repression, KKK stuff.  That region, of course, was the scene of the prolonged and very hard fought civil rights fight of ours, county by county.  In the end, we all cracked the NC Black Belt and brought it well into the 20th Century.  At the very outset of our struggle, I asked Moses Riddick of Southside Virginia to come to our first organizing meeting at Enfield to talk about his Virginia victory.  He did come. I recall it was raining. His saga, in which I had been privileged to play a role, was genuinely inspiring -- although to our initially small group gathered that long ago winter night at the Cofield Funeral Parlor at Enfield, Halifax County, NC, that Virginia triumph seemed far off for us.  But we did finally get there in our bailiwick -- and far beyond.  H.]
To Bill Mandel from Hunter Gray:
I rarely got to Virginia during my civil rights period  [1961-67]  but did
on one significant occasion particularly. I had recently become  SCEF Field Organizer,
working across the South.  And I did spend a good number of days in
Southside Virginia, at Nansemond County [Suffolk], in the fall of '63, assisting Moses
Riddick in his successful break-through campaign for a major county board of
supervisors position.  The race was of both state-wide and regional
importance since Riddick was running against the major pillar of the Byrd
Machine on the Southside, N.T. Poarch.  Predominantly Black labor unions at
Suffolk -- especially in the peanut industry -- were a key factor.  Northern
financial and other support was provided via a fine SCEF colleague of mine,
the Rev. William Howard Melish -- the very left [and very "controversial"]
Episcopal clergyman, Brooklyn N.Y. [I have a strong hunch you will recognize
his name. He was Dr DuBois' executor. . .

Anyway, amid constant rumors of imminent assassination attempts on
Riddick's life  and considerable tension, the campaign moved vigorously to
its wild climax. There was  a last-ditch major effort at Poarch's all-white
precinct to maneuver  "irregularities."  I upset that when I got inside the
voting place for a moment and saw the  huge, unlocked -- note, unlocked --
ballot box, before being forced out. But I got the word to Riddick's
headquarters forthwith via a kid who was my runner.  The sheriff -- White,
of course, but sensing Riddick's imminent victory [Black turnout was
subsequently huge] -- had secretly switched sides just the previous night in
a fascinating meeting -- a harbinger of the New & Pragmatic South.  While I
watched from the required- yardage-distance at the polling place, the
sheriff arrived with his White deputies [he was soon to hire Black ones as
well], holding up a huge padlock for my purview which he then applied inside
to the ballot box.  Riddick won -- and went on to other significant
political things.
Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]


NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:  March 6 2008
I'm delighted to get this letter from Willa Cofield [formerly Willa Johnson] and learn -- not surprisingly -- that she continues her activism.  A lot of good things came out of our wild saga in the Northeastern North Carolina Black-Belt -- and this key and critical case, won when the USSC denied cert to North Carolina [backed by every other Southern AG] following a Fourth Circuit decision on our behalf was one of several significant cases that emerged in the course of our multi-county struggle.  Principal attorneys in Johnson v Branch were Phil Hirschkop of northern Virginia, Bill Kunstler and Arthur Kinoy of New York City, and Sam Mitchell of Raleigh.  Morton Stavis, New Jersey and New York City, assisted in this case -- and, with Bill and Sam, was instrumental in winning our major voting rights case which, for the first time since Reconstruction, opened the voter rolls in the Blackbelt to Blacks and Native Americans.  Through all of this, Willa [a courageous and then high school teacher] and her husband, Reed Johnson, and other members of her family were key players and key pillars of strength.  See  This extensive page contains a number of links to other website pages of ours on the long North Carolina campaign.  H.
Hi, Hunter:

I'm so happy to hear the good news about your health.  It's impossible to keep a good man like you down!  I was in Charlotte, NC last week talking about the Willa Johnson v. Joseph Branch case at an NEA-sponsored banquet, which was held during the CIAA Basketball Tournament.  It certainly brought back many memories of our battles against the Klan in Enfield and of your brave and unfaltering leadership.  The historian who had unearthed details about the case in the NEA archives said that the NEA credits the case with saving 35,000 Black teacher jobs in the South.   Take care and keep winning battles..

Willa Cofield.

Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'

See PERSONAL NARRATIVE [with updated bio material]

In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]