Tag Archives: SNCC

The Story of the TSU Five

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This multi tsu-five-photo-2 part blog series highlights significant but relatively unknown moments of resistance to racist police violence as depicted in the pages of The Movement. When looking at the stories in The Movement, the continuity between historical events and the emerging movement against police violence comes into sharp focus. Police treatment of Black and Brown people has not changed much, if at all. The murders that are captured on smartphones today and streamed online are not a new phenomenon. They were happening in the 1960’s too, and they were met with rage and resistance then, just like they are today.

In early 1967, Texas Southern University (a historically black college) students and Black residents of Houston began organizing on and off campus. In March, students demonstrated against conditions on campus, which were significantly worse than those at the white college down the street. Their grievances included bad food, early curfews, and a lack of courses in fields like engineering and technology. The administration responded by throwing TSU’s Friends of SNCC chapter off campus, firing the group’s faculty advisor, and working with the local police to have a warrant issued for the arrest of a student organizer.

The administration’s crackdown only further angered students, and their protest expanded. They came forward with new demands, including an increase in faculty salaries, the disarmament of campus police, the removal of the campus dean from the local draft board, a student court for disciplinary cases, and the dropping of all charges against student activists.

In May studenttsu-5-photo-1s joined together with local Black residents to protest poor living conditions and city government neglect. A demonstration in the Sunnyside neighborhood was called after a child drowned in an unfenced city garbage dump. Another was held in Northeast Houston to protest the beating of Black high school students with ax handles and chains. The demonstrations gave city officials an excuse to retaliate against TSU students. On the night of May 16, police officers blockaded the campus. Students gathered and some threw rocks at the police. Soon, hundreds of armed police officers swarmed the campus. They arrested 489 students and opened fire on a dormitory. They shot between 3 and 5,000 rounds of AR-15 shells into the dorm. In the course of the raid, a student and a number of officers were shot, and one officer was killed, almost certainly from ricocheting bullets.

Although the ballistics and coroners reports confirmed that the officer was killed by a .30 bullet (the caliber used by Houston PD), the city used the death as a pretext for crushing the Black movement. They arrested five students known for their political activism–one of whom was actually in jail the night of the raid–and charged them with the murder of the police officer. The students became known as the TSU 5 among activists, who organized support for their defense. Despite the lack of evidence, it took over three years for them to be cleared of charges. In November 1970 a Houston judge finally dropped the charges and the state admitted that the officer probably died from a ricocheting police bullet.

The story of the TSU 5 is told in the pages of The Movement, check out the newspaper here: Page1 Page2

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The Movement Newspaper

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Hello everyone,

My name is Chris and over the past month I’ve been working as an intern at the Freedom Archives. I’m excited to announce its collection of the Movement Newspaper has recently undergone a comprehensive update, allowing for greater search-ability  from issue to issue. We hope that these changes makes pinpointing the periodicals that would prove to be the most useful for your needs easier to find!

The Movement Newspaper was published by SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and helped inform people of the many different struggles against oppression happening globally. Initially, the paper served to keep West Coast SNCC members of the organization up to speed on the civil rights movement and voter registration work in the South. Over time, the themes present in the newspaper  evolved, and the scope of topics expanded to cover worker’s rights, Black liberation, political prisoners, anti-Imperialist efforts, global protest movements, government repression, state violence among a multitude of other themes.


I was especially struck by the richness of the collection, the paper is an excellent firsthand source filled with articles, editorials and speeches written by pioneers of and the people within the struggle. The Movement provides not only insight into the factors and issues that people have historically fought back against, but the newspaper itself illuminates the strategies and actions taken by organizers within the movements. The theories and experiences that shaped the identity of their resistance are presented in their own words.

The Movement Newspaper

For those interested in a comprehensive political education spanning multiple movements and themes; I highly recommend checking it out!!


My Experience at the Archives

During my time at the Freedom Archives, I listened to a collection of reel to reel tapes that featured audio from interviews with Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) workers in the South, interviewed by the investigative radio journalist Colin Edwards. In these interviews, the listener is permitted access into the intimate inner workings of SNCC’s Freedom Schools and the political dynamics within the organization as well as relations within Black communities during 1964 in Mississippi.

During these interviews, I listened to firsthand accounts of the battle for Civil Rights and equality that were very personal, detailed and presented a very organic and creative approach to combating the inequalities faced by Blacks living in the South. The majority of the tapes I listened to focus on white college students from elite Northern schools whom volunteered to go South to live, learn and struggle with a number of Black communities during the Summer of 1964.

One of the gentlemen interviewed was Staughton Lynd. During the interview I learned that Lynd had been the former director of the Freedom Schools in the South, as well as his views on the racial dynamics of life in the South and within SNCC. Lynd recalls how some outsiders to Southern society viewed it as partially “un-American in its repression” but also as “a space to create a new kind of America.” This dual outlook between awareness of inequality, yet optimism in possibilities for change, framed much of the consciences of SNCC volunteers.

After listening to firsthand accounts of SNCC volunteer life in a number of rural Black communities and all of the challenges and triumphs, I enjoyed a sense of personal wonderment at their accomplishments as a fellow college student. It was inspiring to listen to their tales of dedication and commitment and that these volunteers used their sense of morality and background of higher education to assist in the development of programs like the Freedom Schools of the South and the Voter Registration Drive.

While I thought the volunteering of White college students from the North was an admirable gesture, I couldn’t help but be slightly weary of the disproportionate amount of young whites that made up the large number of student volunteers, particularly at this time, as well as those individuals I heard interviewed. According to the tapes, within the Freedom Schools those teaching the young African American children were white college graduates who, as volunteer Paul Saltzman noted, had to stay one lesson ahead of the children due to their lack of pre-existing knowledge regarding African American history. This made me wonder what qualified these recent grads to teach African American history other than their desire to uplift local Black populations? Was it simply their background at elite institutions of higher education in the North? Additionally, why did Edwards focus on interviewing the white volunteers instead of focusing on the pre-existing structures of resistance within the African-American communities?

By asking these types of questions I was exposed to another aspect of SNCC’s ideologies and better understand the internal dynamics and contradictions of the organization as a whole.

Many of the SNCC volunteers, the white graduates particularly, noted that the Black Power movement was a great occurrence, and especially necessary for the Civil Rights Movement to move forward. Perhaps these volunteers were aware that their prominent presence within SNCC still facilitated and reinforced the underlying racial hierarchy that SNCC was combating. This dynamic would ultimately play a large role in the further development of SNCC as an organization as Black Power had a huge influence the organizations’ membership and political program by the late 1960s .

As I listened through the interviews of the volunteers of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, I began to contemplate, just as Saltzman did, the state of complacency that is facing my generation. What amazes me about SNCC as an organization is that its existence rested not only on the collective desire of its participants to create a more just society, but also on vibrant structures of community resistance present in the American South.  It is that power that allowed SNCC to be the great force for change that it was during the Civil Rights movement, and that same power that must be rediscover to reestablish the momentum in the conquest for further equality in our society today.


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