Members of the Planning Committee for the SNCC 50th Anniversary Conference

SNCC 50th Anniversary Logo

Shaw University
Raleigh, NC
April 14-18, 2010


Members of The Planning Committee for the SNCC 50th Anniversary Conference are:

Julian Bond, Washington, D.C.
SNCC Communications Director 1961-1966. As a Morehouse student Bond attended the SNCC founding conference at Shaw in April 1960. Bond was elected to both houses of the Georgia Legislature, where he served a total of twenty years. He has been chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1998. He is also a professor of history at both the University of Virginia, and The American University.

Charles Cobb, Jacksonville, FL
Charles E. Cobb JR., is senior analyst for, the world's largest electronic provider of news and information from Africa. He is also a visiting professor at Brown University where he conducts an undergraduate seminar titled The Organizing Tradition of the Southern Civil Rights Movement. He was a SNCC field secretary in Mississippi from 1962-67. Cobb’s latest book is On the Road to Freedom, a Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail. With civil rights organizer and educator, Robert P. Moses he co-authored Radical Equations, Civil Rights From Mississippi to the Algebra Project. He is also a co-editor of No Easy Victories, American Activists and African Liberation over a Half Century. A founding member of the National Association of Black Journalists, Cobb began his journalism career in 1974 as a reporter for WHUR Radio in Washington, DC. In 1976 he joined the staff of National Public Radio as a foreign affairs reporter. From 1985-1997 Cobb was a member of the Editorial Staff of National Geographic magazine. In July 2008, Cobb was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame.

Courtland Cox, Washington, DC
While a Howard University student, Courtland Cox became a member of NAG and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He worked with SNCC in Mississippi and Lowndes County, Alabama, was the Program Secretary for SNCC in 1962, and was the SNCC representative to the War Crimes Tribunal organized by Bertram Russell. In 1963 he served as the SNCC representative on the Steering Committee for the March on Washington. In 1973 Mr. Cox served as the Secretary General of the Sixth Pan-African Congress and international meeting of African people in Tanzania. He co-owned and managed the Drum and Spear bookstore and Drum and Spear Press. Cox is presently a Consultant with the D.C. Public Schools. Cox was appointed by President Clinton to serve as the Director of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) at the Department of Commerce, a position he held until January 20, 2001.

Connie Curry, Atlanta, GA
Constance Curry is a writer, activist, and a fellow at the Institute for Women's Studies, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. She is the author of several books, including Silver Rights, which tells the true story of Mrs. Mae Bertha Carter and her family's struggle for education in Sunflower County, Mississippi; and Mississippi Harmony with Ms. Winson Hudson, which tells the life story of Mrs. Winson a civil rights leader from Leake County, Miss., who also challenged segregation in the 1960s. Curry also collaborated in and edited Deep in Our Hearts: Nine White Women in the Freedom Movement (University of Georgia Press, 2000) and the book Aaron Henry: the Fire Ever Burning (University Press of Mississippi, 2000). Curry attended the April 1960 Shaw Conference representing the National Student Association.

David C. Forbes, Sr, Raleigh, NC
Rev. Forbes is Pastor of Christian Faith Baptist Church in Raleigh. He is a Member of the Shaw University Board of Trustees. Rev. Forbes attended the April 1960 founding conference at Shaw while a student at Shaw.

Don Harris, Osprey, FL
Retired business executive. Born and raised in New York City. While attending Rutgers University, went on Operation Crossroads Africa and was active in the Northern Student Movement. Joined the movement in the south with SNCC in Southwest Georgia in June, 1962. Worked in Albany, Leesburg and was present at the inception and during the growth of the Sumpter County movement. Eventually jailed in Americus on charge of insurrection. Managed C.B. King's campaign for Congress (2nd dist., Georgia) in 1964. Traveled to Guinea West Africa with SNCC delegation and, subsequently, with John Lewis to Zambia's independence ceremonies in Lusaka in 1964.

Tim Jenkins, Washington, DC
Jenkins was student body president at Howard University when the sit-in movement erupted in 1960. That same year he was elected National Affairs VP of the National Student Association before entering Yale Law School. During this period he was SNCC lobbyist on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and a member of the executive committee of the Students For Democratic Society. Among other duties he has taught at Howard University Law School, the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced Studies and the David A. Clarke School of Law. He co-founded The National Conference of Black Lawyers, was appointed Governor of the United States Postal Service, President of The University of the District of Columbia and is now Chairman of Unlimited Visions, Inc. He is coauthor of Blacks In The Information Age.

Charles Jones, Charlotte, NC
Attorney. In 1961 Jones was put in charge of SNCC’s voter registration efforts.
He served as chair of SNCC's direct action committee. He was one of the Rock Hill, South Carolina Four. After riding from Atlanta, Georgia to Birimingham, Alabama on a Greyhound bus on May 24 and 25, 1961, he was arrested as a Freedom Rider in Montgomery, Alabama. While working with Charles Sherrod, Cordell Reagon, and the Albany Movement members, he went to jail on two occasions with Dr. King.

Sharlene Kranz, Washington, DC
Retired Legislative Counsel. While in high school she was a member of NAG, and later worked in MFDP and DC SNCC Offices, in the New York SNCC Office, and at the MFDP Challenge in Atlantic City in 1964. Kranz has worked on Capitol Hill for two Members of Congress, for the National Welfare Rights Organization, for the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and for the Council of the District of Columbia. She is a graduate of an HBCU law school: The University of the District of Columbia.

Dorie Ladner, Washington, DC
Retired social worker. Born and raised in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Ladner first became involved with the Civil Rights Movement when she and her sister and fellow activist, Joyce Ladner, joined the Hattiesburg NAACP Youth Council in 1958. She was the SNCC project director in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1964 until 1966, and lectured at universities, churches and other institutions to raise money for the organization. In addition, Ladner was also a supporter of the Anti-Vietnam War Movement and worked in the presidential campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern. She went on to serve as a community organizer for the Anti Poverty Program in St. Louis, and was an advocate for civil rights in housing and employment. Ladner has also worked for the Martin Luther King Library Documentation Center to help collect the history of people who were participants in the Civil Rights Movement.

Joyce Ladner, Sarasota, FL
A highly respected sociologist, Dr. Ladner grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi during the era of racial segregation. During her years of activism in the early sixties, she worked with civil rights martyrs Medgar Evers, Vernon Dahmer, Clyde Kennard and two of the three civil rights workers who were murdered in 1964, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner. Even though she was in college, she failed the voter registration literacy test and did not get registered until a federal court order was granted. Dr. Ladner received her B.A. degree from Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi and while there, she was arrested for trying to worship at the all-white Galloway Methodist Church. She spent a week in jail. She continued her education and received her PhD in sociology at Washington University. She was the first woman president of Howard University from 1994 to 1995, where she also served as professor of sociology from 1981 to 1998. She has received numerous awards including the Distinguished Alumni Award from Washington University, St. Louis, and honorary doctorates from Howard University and Tougaloo College. She was a senior fellow in at The Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, D.C. until her retirement in 2003. She was also a member of the United States Department of Justice's Advisory Council on Violence Against Women and the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. When the city of Washington, DC went broke in 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed her to the five member District of Columbia Financial Control Board (1995-98) whose job was to balance the city‘s budget. Dr. Ladner has authored, co-authored and edited eight books.

Chuck McDew, Chair of the Planning Committee, W. St. Paul, MN
Retired history professor. Charles McDew led his first demonstration in the eighth grade, to protest violations of the religious freedom of Amish students in his hometown of Massillon, Ohio. McDew’s career as an activist expanded in scope while he was a freshman at South Carolina State College in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Inevitably involved in the newborn sit-in movement, he was elected as student leader by his fellow demonstrators. McDew attended the founding conference at Shaw in April 1960 while a student at South Carolina State and a member of The Orangeburg Movement for Civil Improvement. He served as the second Chairman of SNCC, 1960-1963. McDew has been active in organizations for social and political change, working as a teacher and as a labor organizer, managing anti-poverty programs in Washington, D.C., serving as community organizer and catalyst for change in Boston and San Francisco, as well as other communities. He has appeared on countless radio and television programs as a speaker against racism. McDew recently retired from Metropolitan State University, Minneapolis, MN, where his classes in the history of the civil rights movement, African-American history, and in social and cultural awareness were always oversubscribed

Charles Payne, Chicago, IL
Charles M. Payne is the Frank P. Hixon Professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, where he is also an affiliate of the Center for Urban School Improvement. His interests include urban education and school reform, social inequality, social change and modern African American history. He is the author of I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement (1995), and an anthology, Teach Freedom: The African American Tradition of Education For Liberation (Teachers College Press), which is concerned with Freedom School-like education. Dr. Payne was founding director of the Urban Education Project in Orange, New Jersey, a nonprofit community center that broadens educational experiences for urban youngsters. He has taught at Southern University, Williams College, Northwestern University and Duke University.

Larry Rubin, Takoma Park, MD.

Larry Rubin was a SNCC field secretary off and on between 1961 and 1965, first in SW Georgia and then in northern Mississippi. After SNCC, he went to Kentucky with an assignment from the Southern Conference Educational Fund. Aside from stints with the Philadelphia Urban Coalition, the National Jewish Committee Relations Advisory Council and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, for 45 years Larry has worked in the labor movement as an organizer, media and public relations specialist, speechwriter, publications editor and political advocate. He was also a reporter for the Dayton Daily News, a speechwriter for the U.S. Department of Education, and served four terms on the Takoma Park, Maryland City Council. He is the Communications Director and DC-area Political Director for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters, an affiliate of the Carpenters union.

Cleveland Sellers, Denmark, SC
President, Voorhees College, an HBCU in Denmark, SC. Formerly, Dr. Sellers had been the Director of the African American Studies Program at the University of South Carolina. During college at Howard University he was a member of NAG and was the director of the Holly Springs COFO office during Mississippi Freedom Summer. In 1965 he became the program director of SNCC. He was one of the first members of SNCC to refuse to be drafted into the U.S. military as a protest against the Vietnam War. Sellers served seven months in prison after a conviction for inciting to riot in Orangeburg, SC. During his imprisonment he wrote his autobiography, The River of No Return, chronicling his involvement with the civil rights movement. Sellers received a full pardon 25 years after his conviction.

Charles M. Sherrod, Albany, GA
History professor, Albany State University. Attended April 1960 founding conference at Shaw while a student at the Virginia Union School of Religion. He was SNCC’s first field secretary. From 1961 to 1967 was SNCC field secretary in Albany, Georgia; also directed the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education (1961-87) and New Communities, Inc., a cooperative farming project, from 1969 to 1985. Served on Albany City Commission from 1976 to 1990; former chaplain at Georgia State Prison, Homerville, Georgia.

Karen Spellman, Washington, DC
Karen Spellman is a special events producer who formed her company in 1984 specializing in large-scaled cultural and social justice programs. She is a graduate of Howard University and received her master’s in city planning from Georgia Tech. Her work in the civil rights movement began as a high school student in the Greensboro, NC NAACP youth chapter where she participated in sit-ins for public accommodations. In 1963, she began her work with SNCC as a Howard University student organizer working with the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG) and the DC SNCC office. In 1966 she became a full time SNCC worker in Atlanta, Georgia as the SNCC Research Director at the national office, and provided materials and publications for the SNCC Newsletter, created “The Panther’s Claw” newsletter for the Lowndes County Freedom Organization and produced the Aframerican News Service that provided feature articles documenting the work of SNCC to the national black press.

Maria Varela, Albuquerque, NM
Organizer and Visiting Professor. As a SNCC staff member from 1962-1967 in Alabama and Mississippi, Varela developed educational materials for SNCC and CORE organizers as well as poetry and children’s books under Flute Publications. Also a SNCC photographer, Varela’s photos have been featured in several exhibits including at the NY Public Library, the Smithsonian, Smith College, the Eastman House and the Howard Greenberg Gallery. Maria moved to NM in 1967. For the last 32 years she has organized rural non profits involved in economic and environmental justice. Awarded a National Rural Fellowship in 1980, she acquired a Masters in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Massachusetts (1982). In 1990, she was awarded a Macarthur Foundation fellowship for her work in community development work in the Southwest. From 1982 to present, in addition to her community organizing work, Varela has held adjunct professor positions at the University of New Mexico and The Colorado College. Maria and her husband Lorenzo Zuniga have a daughter Sabina Zuniga-Varela.

Hollis Watkins, Jackson, MS
Hollis Watkins is the Co-founder and President of Southern Echo, Inc., a leadership development, education, training, and technical assistance organization dedicated to empowering local residents throughout Mississippi and the Southern region to make political, economic, educational, and environmental systems accountable to the needs and interests of the African-American community. The twelfth child born to sharecroppers in Lincoln County, Mississippi, he was nineteen when he became the first Mississippi student to join the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as a voting rights organizer. Later he served as the director of the Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Program of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives before founding Southern Echo in 1990.

Bob Zellner, Southampton, NY
The son and grandson of Alabama Klansmen, Zellner became a SNCC field secretary in 1961. He worked for SNCC in McComb, Miss., Albany, Ga., Danville, Va., Talladega, Montgomery, and Birmingham, Ala. He is the author of the memoir The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A white southerner in the freedom movement (2009).