Document 35: "SNCC Retreat," Waveland, Mississippi, [6-12 November 1964], Elaine DeLott Baker Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
In the fall of 1964, SNCC entered a period of intense re-examination. Over the course of Freedom Summer, the organization, which began as a coordinating committee for student sit-ins to desegregate public lunch counters across the South, had become the central vehicle for multiple challenges to segregation. What began as a series of direct actions, using non-violent tactics, expanded to include two major efforts, voter registration and the development of a parallel political party, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. When the decision for Freedom Summer was made, additional programs such as freedom schools, community centers and federal programs were developed to provide meaningful work for the summer volunteers. Freedom Summer saw the number of civil rights workers in Mississippi rise to approximately 1,000, primarily through the addition of white volunteers, many of whom were recruited from elite colleges. There was no plan to exit volunteers after the summer and many remained, either continuing as volunteers or being absorbed into staff on the recommendation of their project director. By the fall of 1964 the number of SNCC staff had grown exponentially. The large influx of white staff had changed the Mississippi movement from a largely black, student-led organization to a black/white effort, with a vocal white constituency, escalating racial tensions within the movement.
The failure of the Mississippi Freedom Party to be seated at the Democratic National Convention and the ongoing and often violent resistance of the white power structure and citizenry undercut the momentum generated by Freedom Summer. Rising expectations within local African-American communities were thwarted by the reality of dwindling resources and indecision about the programmatic directions SNCC should take. As Casey Hayden commented, "We never had a staff meeting in Mississippi to regroup after the summer. The Waveland meeting was a plan on the part of SNCC central office for the organization itself to regroup and re-plan, as a national org[anization], capitalizing on the success of Freedom Summer and creating some way to make decisions to handle the huge influx of staff throughout the South." (Casey Hayden to Elaine DeLott Baker, 11 September 2014)
In advance of the Waveland staff meeting, SNCC's Atlanta headquarters issued a call for papers, inviting staff to voice their concerns and give their views on the future direction and structure of the organization. Thirty-seven position papers were distributed, reflecting the diverse perspectives of staff and leadership on the issues facing the organization. These papers included passionate personal statements, political analyses, and specific recommendations on strategy and structure, with the discussion of structure crowding out most other issues and leading to an impasse. The papers on this retreat list were not numbered in any particular order and additional papers were also circulated after this list was made. The thirteen position papers published here (Documents 36A-48) are meant to give the readers a sense of the context in which the position paper on women in the movement was delivered.
Please check these titles or first lines against the papers that are in your-packet now. Pick up papers you do not have at Jones Hall office.
1. What is the Student Voice (10/22/64 Joyce Brown)
2. What is the Student Voice? (Silas Norman)
3. What is the Importance of Racial Considerations Among the Staff? (Norman)
4. SNCC's Goals and Bourgeoise Sentimentality
5. Some Basic Considerations for Staff Retreat
6. A Note to SNCC Staff About Northern SNCC Staff
7. The New Building
8. To the SNCC family there was one question. . . . .
9. Training SNCC Staff to Be Organizers
10. Summary Report--Campus Travellers
11. To: Planners of the Staff Meeting
Some Suggestions in Answer to Questions Raised by the Memo
12. To: SNCC National Office
Re: Organization of Friends of SNCC in the Bay Area
13. From Sherrod
14. October 23, 1964
Memo to SNCC Staff From Mike Miller
Res: Questions Raised for National staff Meeting.
15. Some Notes on How SNCC Might Organize Itself
16. What is SNCC? What should it be to accomplish its goals?
17. Working Paper: SNCC and the Southern Campus
18. SNCC in the North
19. James Pittman paper on decision making
20. Working Paper: Poor Whites and the Movement
21. A Note About Friends of SNCC Groups----What do they do?
22. Working Paper for SNCC Staff Conference
From: Mike Miller
Re: An internal education program for SNCC
23. All those little newspaper articles. . . . .
24. SNCC Position Paper (name withheld by request)
(women in ...)
25. What is SNCC?
26. Why do we organize, where do we organize, what do we do with what we organize, and the relationship of these questions to structure and decision making
27. Introduction: Semi-Introspective (Name witheld by request)
28. Working Paper
"Communications section"means many things....
29. What is SNCC? A Band of Brothers (Forman)
The following papers were mailed out. Pick them up if you don't have them with you.
30. Position Paper Rev. Tom Brown
31. The Student Voice
32. What We Can Do On Campuses
33. I. We are on a boat....
34. the staff of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
35. The idea of "one man - one vote" . . .
36. There was (general agreement) on the question of whether or not a very serious staff meeting was needed. . . .
37. Frank Smith -- SNCC has a picture of an old man. . . .
(Anyone who writes other papers can bring them to Jones for mimeographing. . . .)
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