Leaving Beloved Community Behind

Charles Marsh: Mrs. Hamer said that "black power" was what she had been doing all her life?

Cleveland Sellers: That's right.

CM: But she had a qualification. She said the movement must always display a 'beloved society' ideal if it was going to move a step beyond the racism of the deep south.

CS: But during the power that Black Power was emerging, inside SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] we are fighting against a narrow nationalism. We recognize that it's not sufficient to say, "because a person is black, therefore he is". But you must understand that we are on a treadmill here. We are getting hit from a lot of different sides. So we don't have a lot of time to make the story; plus we don't have the space now because now we have come out with black power and have been against the war in Vietnam. It's hard to get your position out. So you have to do it when you can, however you can. You have people who are just tired of being in Mississippi, who need to rotate out for a while. A very traumatic kind of environment or atmosphere for three years. We begin to lose some of our really quality organizers. We cannot replace them. We do not know how to test the new members; in the past the test might have been the number of arrests or what happened in a critical situation. In a situation, how did you respond.

When they make an arrest on an elevator; Annie Peral Avery [?], they started whipping on one of the fellows and she lay down on top of him and said you need to whip me too, If you're going out there, you want that kind of person with you.

CM: Why did you want to get whipped? After 64, you don't want to get whipped anymore?

CS: That's right. But through 64, we played this way. [comments on FBI] We understood these kinds of things. [comments on FBI's role in the movement]

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