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Hands on the Freedom Plow - Author Panel Discussion

Hands on the Freedom Plow - Author Panel Discussion

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This author talk is part of the Gender + Justice Events Series: Through films, discussions & author talks, this series seeks to center a feminist lens on the shared perspectives, experiences and voices of women in social movements.

Join us for an inspiring evening as we gather four contributors to Hands on the Freedom Plow Betty Garman Robinson, Judy Richardson and Jennifer Lawson in conversation about their work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement.

In Hands on the Freedom Plow, fifty-two women--northern and southern, young and old, urban and rural, black, white, and Latina--share their courageous personal stories of working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement.

The testimonies gathered here present a sweeping personal history of SNCC: early sit-ins, voter registration campaigns, and freedom rides; the 1963 March on Washington, the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the movements in Alabama and Maryland; and Black Power and antiwar activism. Since the women spent time in the Deep South, many also describe risking their lives through beatings and arrests and witnessing unspeakable violence. These intense stories depict women, many very young, dealing with extreme fear and finding the remarkable strength to survive.

JUDY RICHARDSON was on the staff of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the Deep South (1963-66). In addition to producing documentaries for broadcast and museums (including the award-winning 14-hour PBS series Eyes On The Prize, PBS’ Malcolm X: Make It Plain, and all the videos for the “Little Rock 9” National Park Service Visitor Center), she writes, lectures, and conducts workshops on the history and relevance of the Civil Rights Movement. She was a co-founder of Washington, DC’s Drum & Spear Bookstore, once the largest African American bookstore in the country; worked for a variety of social justice organizations (including the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice); has an honorary Doctorate from Swarthmore College; is on the board of the SNCC Legacy Project, working on collaborations with Duke University; and is a former Distinguished Visiting Professor at Brown University.

BETTY GARMAN ROBINSON worked for two years as a member of the SNCC staff – at the organization’s national office in Atlanta, Georgia, and in Greenwood, Mississippi, and later at the Washington SNCC Office. She moved to Baltimore in 1972 to work in a factory, then did public health research for 18 years before becoming the Lead Organizer for the Citizens Planning and Housing Association (CPHA) which organizes communities to take action on quality of life issues. In 2003 she was one of ten Baltimoreans to receive an Open Society Institute Community Fellowship. She currently works as a regional resource person for Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), a national organization calling white people in to work for racial justice. Each chapter (160 presently) works in accountability with people of color active in their local communities.

When only 16 years old, Jennifer was expelled from her Birmingham, AL, high school for joining protests in support of the Freedom Rides.
Lawson attended Tuskegee University where she participated in voting rights campaigns, including the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery March. During the march, Lawson and other Tuskegee students picketed the state capitol in Montgomery, despite the presence of the KKK and Alabama State Troopers. While at Tuskegee, one of her classmates, returning veteran and student leader Samuel Younge Jr., was shot and killed for using a white-only bathroom in Tuskegee. 
Lawson eventually left school and became a SNCC field secretary, organizing in Georgia, Mississippi, and Lowndes County, Alabama.
In Washington, D.C. she worked with both Drum and Spear Bookstore and Press, creating the illustrations and Swahili translations for “Children of Africa” and other publications. In 1970, Lawson moved to Tanzania in East Africa as coordinator of a joint publishing project. It is there that she decided to study film.
Lawson received an M.F.A degree from Columbia University. She became PBS’ first chief programming executive, making her the highest-ranking black woman to have served in public television. She later became general manager of WHUT-TV/ Howard University. She just stepped down as the Senior VP for TV and Video Content for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS’s funding arm).