And you will be put out if you do it.’” Lonnie King was an activist with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Atlanta.He remembers meeting other students from the Nashville movement when SNCC became a nationwide organization in 1960. He reflects on the sacrifices that women college students at Howard made in joining the struggle, and remarks on the constraints they faced after doing so: “It is only in retrospect that I recognize the extraordinary price that our sisters paid for being as devoted to the struggle as they were.So that they occupied a place outside the conventional social norms of the whole university student body. But with men, I think, we can just say, ‘Kiss my black ass’ and go on about our business.
Doris Adelaide Derby, another SNCC activist, remembers that the challenge and urgency of the freedom struggle was a formative experience for young activist women, who had to learn resourcefulness on the job: “I always did what I wanted to do. And I found that when I came up with ideas and I was ready to work to see it through, and I think that happened with a lot of women in SNCC.
We needed all hands on deck, and so, when we found ourselves in situations, we had to rely on whoever was around.
Mildred Bond Roxborough, a long-time secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, discusses the importance of women leaders in local branches: “Well, actually when you think about women's contributions to the NAACP, without the women we wouldn't have an NAACP.
The person who was responsible for generating the organizing meeting was a woman.
I never understood that because she was in fact the leader in Nashville. That they weren't into the trivia of fashion and dressing up.
Though they were attractive women and they took care of themselves, but they weren’t the kind of trophy wives for the med school students and they weren’t—some of them might have been members of the Greek letter organizations, but most of them I suspect weren’t.
He recalls his surprise that Diane Nash was not elected to be the representative from Nashville, and echoes Simmons’ criticisms about male privilege and domination: “Diane Nash, in my view, the Nashville movement and by that I mean this: Others were there, but they weren’t Diane Nash. It meant that they weren’t into homecoming queen kind of activities.
Diane was articulate; she was a beautiful woman, very photogenic, very committed. I never did understand how, except maybe for sexism, I never understood how [James] Bevel, Marion [Barry], and for that matter, John Lewis, kind of leapfrogged over her. That they weren’t into the accepted behavior of a Howard lady.
And if somebody had XYZ skills, and somebody only had ABC, we had to come together.
We used to joke about that, but in reality, the women, you know, were strong.