Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Robert Zellner, November 3, 1990

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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FOSL: --then I'm talking with Bob Zellner on Saturday, November the 2nd, 3rd.


FOSL: November--

ZELLNER: It's on my--

FOSL: --the 3rd.

ZELLNER: --watch if you can read it. I don't know.

FOSL: Yes, November the 3rd, 1990, in New Orleans. Okay, well Bob, I've been wanting to interview you for a long time and it's-- we've got so much to cover that why don't we just, like, start at the beginning--


FOSL: --at Huntingdon.

ZELLNER: All right.

FOSL: And tell me a little bit about what happened to you in terms of this kind of sup-, whatever it was that happened with the MIA that-- okay--


FOSL: --just start there.

ZELLNER: All right, good. Well, it, before I say that, I, I--the same way I told Cynthia Flemming who's working on, uh, Ruby Doris--

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: --um, I think you're doing God's work too when you're doing Anne Braden. It's long overdue. And, uh, so I'm sure it's a labor of love.

FOSL: It is, yeah.

ZELLNER: And it's very much needed. Because for me, Anne Braden is 00:01:00probably, uh, as responsible as anybody else, if not more responsible, for me, uh, being, quote, in the movement.

FOSL: I know that's true. I mean I get--she's not said that. She would never take such credit.

ZELLNER: --um-hm--

FOSL: But I've gathered that from the story that she's told me.

ZELLNER: Yeah, I would definitely-- I have to give Anne Braden the credit for me being in the movement. Um, she was a godsend for me because, uh, I was at Huntingdon Col-, Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: And, um, it was, um, it was bitter days there.

FOSL: Just pardon me one second.

[Pause in recording.]

ZELLNER: Uh, but anyway it was, it was, uh, Montgomery, Alabama in 1961. And, uh, what had happened was that-- there was a little bit of 00:02:00involvement my junior year, which would be, uh, '59 and '60. But then my senior year, '60, '61, uh, we got, quote, in trouble.

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: And that's where Anne came in. So I'm not gonna tell you all of the details and everything, but I'll tell you the Anne's part of it--

FOSL: Okay--

ZELLNER: --anyway.

FOSL: --tell me that.

ZELLNER: Okay. In the process of, of our actions at, at, uh, at Huntingdon, we, uh, met, uh, Dr. King and Reverend Abernathy. And, uh, we met them at, um, uh, a federal court hearing where, uh, they were charged with libel, along with the New York Times. It was a famous case. I think it was called Sullivan v. , uh, the New York Times or something like that. It--do you think-- are you picking up a 00:03:00lot of that?

FOSL: I'm worried about it. We can just get this transcribed.

ZELLNER: I can even put this right here.

FOSL: Yeah.

ZELLNER: --okay--

FOSL: --okay--


FOSL: Sullivan.

ZELLNER: Oh yeah. Well, anyway it was, uh, it was a case of libel against Dr. King and Reverend Abernathy and Reverend Seay, Solomon Seay, I think Fred Gray, uh, a number of people from the Montgomery Improvement Association. And, uh, we had, uh, gone to the federal court hearing and we had met Dr. King and Reverend Abernathy. And, uh, several of us were, uh, working on a paper--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --at college and everything. And we were doing a lot of this activity under the aegis of, uh, of doing this paper about the racial question. But anyway, um, we--Reverend Abernathy and Dr. King set up some meetings with black students at Alabama State for us. And then we went to a, uh, uh, non-violent workshop. We went to a series of 00:04:00mass meetings which were held on the anniversary of the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and so forth. And, um, but while all this was going on, the federal court hearing came to a close and the ministers, uh, were-- and the New York Times were convicted of libel. And the state started confiscating the homes and the cars and everything of these ministers.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: And, uh, so I saw that as an opportunity to involve a few more students rather than this little five that were working on the paper. And so we circulated a letter, we wrote up a very simple letter of support for Reverend Abernathy and Dr. King and so forth, and we said, "We, uh, wanted them to know that not all white people in the area felt, uh, the way the majority did."

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: And that, "We, uh, supported them and we were, uh, embarrassed with the activity-- the, uh, because the county commissioner said, 00:05:00uh, charged them with libel and we felt, felt that it was a, a bum rap," and so forth. And we said "We know that this little collection wouldn't make much dent in the three million dollar judgment against each one of you jointly and collectively, but, uh, we wanted to take a collection and send you this money." And we had, uh, I think there was something like twenty-three students signed that thing.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: And out of a student body of about, uh, oh, seven or eight hundred, I, I guess, that was, you know, in 1961, maybe that was pretty good. We didn't think it was much. We didn't think much of it, but we sent it up anyway. And apparently it made a really big impression on, uh, Dr. King and Reverend Abernathy. And Abernathy apparently carried the letter around until, you know, it sort of wore off the corners and everything. Anne was talking to him, I guess, for an article for the Southern Patriot about the, uh, anniversary celebration.

FOSL: It was in Ohio, I think.

ZELLNER: Oh was it in Oh--

FOSL: Yeah.

ZELLNER: She saw him in--


FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: Oh yeah, see, you'll know a lot of that, a lot of the peripheral information which I don't know. Uh, but apparently Reverend Abernathy showed her the letter. And, uh, so, uh, I-- she probably asked him if he thought--if, if he thought it was All right for her to contact us.

FOSL: Yeah.


FOSL: And uh--let me just interrupt your for one minute and ask you if you have a, a, a date for this in mind?

ZELLNER: Oh yeah, a date. Uh, yes, it would probably be December of 1960.

FOSL: Okay.

ZELLNER: Um, and I--

FOSL: Had you heard--


FOSL: I'm sorry. Let me just go back. Had you heard about the founding of SNCC and that sort of thing at that time?

ZELLNER: Uh, no. A--I, I knew about the sit-ins.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: Uh, because, see, the sit-ins started, uh, my--the, uh, spring or February of my junior year.

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: Uh, so I knew about the sit ins and I had been, uh, affected, 00:07:00uh, tremendously affected by the sit-ins because these were students.

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: And, you know, they presented themselves as students and they-- I remember thinking that they're so well dressed. I was fairly poor myself, you know. They had trench coats and, you know, always had suits and ties and they had their books with them. And, uh, they were doing something about something they felt strongly about. You know. And so I was, uh, tremendously intrigued about this. And also excited that they were going against the authority. You know.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: That, you know, these people, they got, uh, they got guts. You know, they don't care if they get in trouble or not. And that, uh, it, it inspired me. But, um, and also had gotten upset about the racial question, uh, the year before because a professor of mine was, uh, banished from Montgomery over a racial incident.

FOSL: And who was that?

ZELLNER: I--if you're interested, then I can tell you the story of-- it's, uh, George Heidler (??). Uh, Dr. George Heidler. And I was very 00:08:00much involved in his case. And, uh, it's a completely unknown case, I guess, in the movement. But, uh--

FOSL: Huh? No, I hadn't heard of that. Anne's never mentioned it. I've never seen anything about it.

ZELLNER: Well, it was directly related to getting me involved in the movement, I guess, which got me involved with Anne, which got me involved with SNCC. So, um, it--

FOSL: Oh, okay. Well--

ZELLNER: --made be--

FOSL: --why don't you just briefly, you know.

ZELLNER: All right, I'll give you the bare bones of it.

FOSL: Give me the bare bones.

ZELLNER: Uh, George Heidler was the, was the chairman of the art department at Huntingdon. And, uh, he was a painter and so forth, and he also directed a lot of the plays.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: So I got to know him when I was in some plays--

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: --at Huntingdon. And I was in a play, I think, uh, Noel Coward's Hay Fever, uh, and Heid-, Heidler was the director of the play.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: And, uh, on the night of dress rehearsal, which is where, uh, 00:09:00you know, the people come, but it's not the real opening, uh, Heidler didn't show up. And we all said, "Where's the director? Where's the director?" And they had a-- the assistant director was in charge and nobody would tell us where Heidler was.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: Well, "He's sick, he's indisposed, uh, he's out of town, he," you know, several stories. And so the next night, we were sure he'd be back by the next night, this is opening night, not only was Heidler not there, but they had printed up new programs and his name wasn't on the program.

FOSL: Hmm.

ZELLNER: And we said, "Well, wait a minute, what is--something is seriously wrong here. You can't change the director at the opening of the play." I mean he's the director of the play. What's happening? So then we, we--I got a group of students together--and they simply wouldn't tell us anything. And I went to see the president of the college. I said, "We demand to know what's happened to our director. 00:10:00They got new programs printed and everything, his name is not on it." "Well, he's gotten in trouble." And what happened was that he was, uh, he was a bachelor and, uh, he had gone to a party. And the hostess had asked him at the end of the party if he would drop off the, the butler or the, the waiter. They'd had a, uh, a student, I guess, from Alabama State who had been the, the waiter--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --at the, at the thing, a young black m-, man. And Heidler said, "Sure he'd be glad to give him a lift home." Now, Heidler was a member of the Human Relations Council, director of the art department. Um, he lived with his mother. He was single and so forth. He was a cultivated man with a, with a very cultured accent and everything. And what happened was on the way he was driving home, the, the backseat of his station wagon was down and it was full of canvases 00:11:00and everything. So the young black man was sitting in the front seat. And in Montgomery in 1960, you know, that wasn't done. So, uh, it was either '59 or '60. And, um, the cops stopped him at a light, dragged, uh, the young black man out and dragged Heidler out and said, "What do you mean kissing that nigger?" You know, and, uh, Heidler drew himself up to all six feet four and said, "I've never kissed a Negro, nor do I intend to." You know, and for the fifth grade educated white policeman in Montgomery, this means that he was a, you know, not only was he now a excusive homosexual, he was probably a Yankee and everything and, and all that. And then once they found out who he was, they really crucified the man. They beat the young man with hoses and everything to try to get him to testify that there had been a homosexual act and so forth. And the, the whole upshot of the thing was that Heidler 00:12:00had to leave town. It was the judgment of the court that he would not be jailed if he would leave Montgomery and never return. And what happened was the administration of the college, we said-- they finally told us all this. You know. And we said, "Well, did he do it?" You know, and they said, "Oh no, no. It's just, you know, he's, he, it's a, it's a frame, it's a frame up thing. You know. They got him because he's in the Human Relations Council and, you know, he is single. He lives with his mother and everything. So they, they, and it, but." And we said, "Well, you have to defend him, right?" "Oh no, you can't do that." You know. "And we've, we've sent, we've sent word to him to have someone come and clean out his desk." And we were appalled. We said, "Do you mean not only, you're not gonna support him, you're not gonna defend him. You wouldn't even let a man come back and clean out his own desk?" You know. And that was-- that was an 00:13:00outrage. So I organized some students and other, other student--I was not the prime organizer of that, uh, but we organized students to go and, you know, we sat with him and everything and cleaned out his desk and did, did all this thing. It was like a wake, you know.

FOSL: I'm sure.

ZELLNER: And here you had to go off. So that was my junior year. So by the time of my senior year, I was, I was really, um, tremendously, uh, excited by, upset by, and, and completely focused on, uh, on these matters of race, because the George Heidler case had brought me face to face with the fear that--and I was intrigued with this fear. Why are people afraid?

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: You know, and they kept saying, "They this, they that." You know, "Boom, boom, they." And I said, "You can't knuckle under to this fear." So I was really ready to challenge things when, uh, when my senior year occurred and this paper was assigned. And then I met Dr. King and, and all those things started happening. But anyway, uh, 00:14:00when Abernathy, uh, told Anne about this letter, she called me. She said, "I'm Anne Braden from, uh, uh, the Southern Patriot, and I'd like to talk to you about this letter." Now the only thing--the funny thing that happened was that between the time, uh, I gave Reverend Abernathy the letter and the little contribution and everything, and the time Anne called me, uh, we were--five of us were asked to resign from school, from college, the five of us that were assigned the paper, because we had gone to the mass meetings and we had gone to a non-violent workshop and the police had tried to arrest us. They had surrounded the workshop and everything and tried to capture us. But we had escaped and gotten back to the campus. And then the president and the whole faculty and everything had confronted us with going to these meetings and they demanded our resignations from Huntingdon. And then, 00:15:00uh, the Klan burnt crosses around our dim-, dormitory and everything. And the final indignity was that we were hailed into the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Alabama. And, uh, he, uh, said, uh, said to me, "You've fallen under the communist influence." And I said, "Well, you mean there's communists in Alabama?" And he said, "Well, no, they don't live here. But they come through here. And you've fallen under the influence." And he took out a long--a, you know, a big stack of cards and started giving me the names of people to look out for. And the first name was Anne Braden. The next name was Carl Braden. And then there was Clifford Durr, Virginia Durr, uh, Aubrey Williams. You know. A couple more names.

FOSL: Jim Dombrowski.

ZELLNER: Jim Dombrowski. I had never heard of any of these people. Uh, God--(laughs)-- Glenn Smiley, you know


FOSL: (laughs) Right.

ZELLNER: These people like that. And she--he give me about, about, got about a dozen, uh, uh, about ten names or so. So when Anne called me--

FOSL: It was about a week after this?

ZELLNER: --about a week after that, I said, "Well, I've heard your name before." And she said, "Where, where's that?" I said, "From the attorney general."

FOSL: (laughs) I love it.

ZELLNER: (laughs) And he--I said, "He told me to look out for you." And, uh--

FOSL: So you told her that right upfront?

ZELLNER: Oh yeah. I said, uh--and what I was thinking was that, you know, the minute the attorney general told me that they were, these were the bad guys, I knew they weren't the bad guys, they were the good guys. You know.

FOSL: So you didn't have that pervasive fear of communism?


FOSL: I mean, or you didn't necessarily believe it? Or--

ZELLNER: No. I didn't, uh, I didn't think he knew what a, a communist was. I was pretty sure I didn't know--(laughs)--what a communist was. And I didn't think he had any better idea than I did what a communist was. And also, I found out right away that he was lying, because, um, I asked Anne, I said, "Where are you from?" She said, "Anniston, 00:17:00Alabama." I said, "Well, do you live here now?" She said, "Well, no, I live in Louisville." And I said, "Well, uh, he said no, but there weren't any of these communists in Alabama." And the next thing that happened after Anne, I'll tell you more about Anne in a minute, but the next thing was--there's Virginia Durr sitting right over there.

FOSL: Right, right I know Virginia.

ZELLNER: And I got a formal invitation from her and Clifford that says, "We would like the presence of your company for dinner on such and such a night."

FOSL: Oh, so you had felt you were being really wooed by these communists. (laughs)

ZELLNER: I'm being zeroed in on by all these--(laughs)--all these communists.

FOSL: So Anne had probably gotten in touch with her or--

ZELLNER: I don't know. She probably had gotten--no, I think she had gotten our names from the newspapers.


ZELLNER: Because the--when we were asked to leave school and--

FOSL: So this would be--

ZELLNER: --everything--

FOSL: --in the Montgomery paper?

ZELLNER: Yeah, it would be in the papers. Yeah, you can research, you can research that. Because the, uh, president of the college was quoted and said that, "We were, uh, hoodlums and we were not, not 00:18:00representative of Huntingdon College." We were troublemakers--

FOSL: And this would still be December '61--I mean '60?

ZELLNER: Well, it's a few days--

FOSL: Early '61 maybe?

ZELLNER: Yeah, yeah. Uh, either the very latter part of, uh, of '60, it's the latter part of '60 and the early weeks of '61.

FOSL: Okay, all right.

ZELLNER: Because I remember the centennial--they were whole--so many things were happening at once. The--and it, it can be dated by the anniversary of this, of the, uh, uh, bus boycott.

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: Because the--they have their anniversary the same time every year. And I think it's in December.

FOSL: Oh yeah, it's December 2nd is the date when it started. So--

ZELLNER: Oh, okay. Right. December 2nd. Now whether or not they, they celebrate the beginning or the, or the end, I'm not sure.

FOSL: Oh, good point.

ZELLNER: And but probably they were about the same time--

FOSL: Yeah.

ZELLNER: --the end may, the end of the boycott may have been a little past the beginning--

FOSL: Right, I think it was--


ZELLNER: --whatever.

FOSL: --yeah, on in January actually.

ZELLNER: Um-hm. But anyway, that would date, that would date the, uh--

FOSL: Okay, well that's close--

ZELLNER: --the--

FOSL: --enough.

ZELLNER: --the invol--

FOSL: I, I will figure that out.

ZELLNER: But let's see, what was I about to talk--about to tell you about?

FOSL: About the invitation to the Durrs.

ZELLNER: Oh, the--I got an invitation from the Durrs. It was also a Civil War Centennial was occurring. And three of us, out of the five that were asked to leave school for integrated behavior, we were all in the, uh, Civil War Centennial out at the big, uh, coliseum. I was playing John Wilkes Booth, I think. You know, I had a, had a, a honored role in the--

FOSL: Interesting--

ZELLNER: --in the--

FOSL: --irony.

ZELLNER: Um-hm. (laughs) But, uh, so we got the thing from Anne--from Virginia. We met--went and met Virginia and, and Clifford and, uh--

FOSL: You and the other students? They were still--


FOSL: --sort of standing firm?

ZELLNER: Yeah, they were, they, they were--

FOSL: And you did--

ZELLNER: --all five of us--

FOSL: --resign?

ZELLNER: --went I think. No, they, they all--every-, everybody but me. 00:20:00I was the only person that didn't resign. And the, the difference was that I was the only person that had any support from my immediate family. They--all their families just dumped on 'em and, you know, they, they fell apart. They--some committed sui-, attempted suicide, didn't commit suicide, luckily, but attempted suicide. They dropped out of school and did, uh, all kind of weird things. But what was even more ironic about the situation was that, um, a few days after the president, uh, had us in the paper as being hoodlums and not representative of Huntingdon College, two of us were given the highest honors of the school, myself and, and Bill Head. And that was a tremendous, uh, event for the students because everybody knew. I mean this was open hypocrisy.

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: You know, I mean here was the same president who had just called us hoodlums and not representative, is putting the stole around us, saying that we represented the highest achievement of scholastic, 00:21:00uh, you know, uh, ratings and, you know, the true, uh, spirit of intellectual inquiry and all these things that--where this ritual is written in 1853--1852 and everything. So, it would just--everything was happening at once. But we met Anne--we, we, we got in touch with Anne.

FOSL: Okay, so when--

ZELLNER: We got in touch with them.

FOSL: --she got in touch with you, what did she say? She w-, just wanted to write the article? Or did she--


FOSL: --talk with you about the student project at that time, the white student project?

ZELLNER: No, no, no. She didn't mention the student project at that time. I don't know if she even--

FOSL: 'Cause immediately--

ZELLNER: --knew about it.

FOSL: --she thought about it. Yeah, it was already in the works.

ZELLNER: Oh, it was in the works? And she immediately thought about it, huh?

FOSL: She, 'cause she had no white candidates whatsoever.

ZELLNER: Right. ----------(??).

FOSL: White student candidates--


FOSL: --or southerners.


FOSL: So that's what she immediately thought of when Ralph showed her that letter.

ZELLNER: (laughs) I didn't, I didn't know that. I thought it had occurred later on.

FOSL: I don't think so.

ZELLNER: And she said, "Oh, by--

FOSL: I'm almost--

ZELLNER: --by the way."

FOSL: --certain of it.

ZELLNER: (laughs) Because what she said was that she'd like very much to use the letter in the Southern Patriot--


FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --'cause she was doing an article about the anniversary celebration and this would be a good tie-in with the, uh, libel suit and everything and she thought it was news because or because Ralph and, and, uh, and Dr. King thought so much of what we had done. And actually we hadn't even realized, you know, we didn't realize that it had had much effect. We said, "Well, it's just, you know, another, you know, everybody in the world's communicating with 'em. We don't know." Um, but she said, "I'd like to use the--," she said, "What do you think about using the names?" And I said, "Well, I'll have to ask everybody." And of course I had to talk to her again then. And I went around asking everybody and they said, "Oh no, no, no, no." And I talked-- I don't know to this day whether I said, "You can use my name," or not. But I, I know I--

FOSL: Uh, she says that you did.

ZELLNER: Oh I did? Okay. I hope so. (both laugh)

FOSL: We'll let it stand.

ZELLNER: We'll let it stand. All right. Because, uh, of course, we could go back and look in the, in the morgue and find out what the 00:23:00article came out. But--

FOSL: Oh, in the Southern Patriot?

ZELLNER: In the Southern Patriot, yeah. And whether or not she used the letter at all, I don't know.

FOSL: I think she did. But--


FOSL: --I-- Emory has those, the complete collection. So I will check that.

ZELLNER: Oh, check that out. Okay. 'Cause you got the date pretty much.

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: It would probably be January of--

FOSL: It's very easy to track.

ZELLNER: --January or February of '61. Um, but anyway, I've said that no, that people didn't want their names used because it was, it would be exposing 'em too much. And, uh, maybe I said that mine--it was okay for mine. Because at that time I had decided to challenge the policy.

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: Uh, my father had gone with me to the, uh, attorney general's office. And so we sort of made a, a pact that we were gonna fight this thing inside the church, since, uh, Huntingdon was a, was a church college. So we wanted to, uh, we, we were restricted to campus after this--the police had tried to arrest us and everything. We were 00:24:00restricted to campus. And, uh, we tried to find out, well, what's the basis for the restriction. And they said, "Well, we were, uh, we were in danger."

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: You know, the Klan was gonna get us or something like that. And, uh, so I said that I would not with-, withdraw from college because I didn't understand why they were, they were asking me with-, to withdraw. If they wanted to get rid of me, there was a way to do that.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: They could expel me. In the meantime I had met with, uh, Glenn Smiley. I don't know what the time table was here. But seems like everything is crammed in here, about one time. But Glenn Smiley was representing the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: And I remember he met with a number of us, probably some secret meetings somewhere, you know. And he said, um, "Well, if they do move against you and throw you out," he says, "I can more or less promise you that you'll be accepted almost anywhere in the country." That was, uh, that was almost unbelievable to us, you know, because we just 00:25:00didn't believe that anybody would be interested in anything that was happening down here in Montgomery anyway.

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: And but he assured us, he said, "Look, if you, uh," and the others, I think, believed it less than I did.

FOSL: I'll bet.


FOSL: 'Cause you had sort of-- were becoming part of a little network.

ZELLNER: Yeah, I was be-, you know, I had, uh, so many people had contacted and so forth, I said, "Well, maybe there is something to this." And what I really decided was that whether there's anything to that or not, uh, this is where my fight is, and therefore I'm not gonna with-, with-, resign--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --or withdraw. And also I'm not gonna restrict myself to campus. So we wanted to come up with a test case. And in the meantime, I--maybe from Anne, I'd heard about a meeting of student leaders that was gonna be at Highlander.

FOSL: So--but you hadn't met Anne at this point?

ZELLNER: I hadn't met her, no, no. I'm sure I must have met her at Highlander. I--

FOSL: Then?

ZELLNER: Yeah, when I went to Highlander with my--

FOSL: So this would have been, like--

ZELLNER: --father.

FOSL: --probably spring '61 or something?

ZELLNER: Yeah. Um-hm. 'Cause it--


FOSL: And you remember meeting her?

ZELLNER: Oh yeah. Yeah.

FOSL: Tell me about it.

ZELLNER: Oh, well, I remember--(laughs)--that's right, old Anne. Well, I, I'm pretty sure, and I believe she'll agree with me on this, that I did meet her at that meeting in, in High-, at Highlander. Because this was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me. And I thought it was perfect because Highlander, uh, I, I think I even knew about Highlander--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --because Highlander--

FOSL: You must have from the Durrs if you'd been to this--

ZELLNER: From the Durrs or from just, uh, you know, it was known as a communist training school.

FOSL: Oh yeah, right.

ZELLNER: You know. And I figured, well, this is the best place for me to go--(Fosl laughs)--because uh--

FOSL: I love it.

ZELLNER: --you know, I'm gonna test, I'm, I'm gonna tell 'em I'm going to Highlander for the, a weekend meeting. And I'm going with my father, Reverend James Zellner. You know. (laughs)

FOSL: Oh, so he went too?

ZELLNER: So he went too. He went also.

FOSL: That's great you had that.

ZELLNER: Yeah, it was, it was fantastic. By this time my mother and father were both, uh, wade in, you know, and they were doing, they 00:27:00started doing pamphlets and everything within the church. And it--

FOSL: And was this the Methodist Church?

ZELLNER: It was a Methodist Church, yeah. And uh, they, uh, they made Searcy, Dr. Searcy who was the president of Huntingdon, made him come down for a public meeting in Mobile to explain why we were asked to leave school.

FOSL: And that's where your father's church was, Mobile?

ZELLNER: In Mobile, yeah. At Broad Street.

FOSL: And that's where you grew up?

ZELLNER: Uh, well that's when I--that's where I finished high school. If you're a Methodist's preacher's kid, you didn't grow up anywhere--

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: --you grew up every-, several in, in different, a lot of different places. But, uh, anyway, at--the thing that I remember about the first meeting with Anne was that Anne--I mean I know now, I can tell now, that Anne simply didn't waste any time. You know. She may have told me--I don't think they eve-, she even told me at that time about this, uh, this position, although she probably did. It seemed 00:28:00like it was a little later. But--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --I remember we were--I was intrigued with this woman, because she was writing for the Southern Patriot. She was--here she was going to the Highlander Folk School and everything. And she was from Alabama. And I wanted to know how she got that way. And so I was asking her, you know, "Well, how'd you arrive at these beliefs?" And then she was telling me about the Junior League, and, uh, you know, uh, and, uh, working for a newspaper in Birmingham--

FOSL: And the Episcopal Church.

ZELLNER: --and the Episcopal Church and so forth. And, it--some--

FOSL: Did you meet Carl also at that time?

ZELLNER: Uh, I don't remember if I met Carl at that meeting. I, I'm sure I met him very soon. No, I think Carl might have been in jail.

FOSL: Oh, that's right. He was in jail.

ZELLNER: Yeah, okay.

FOSL: He was in prison.

ZELLNER: And then when I found out that her husband was in jail, boy, that was a, that was even more exciting. But the thing that I remember specifically that really had an effect on me was a little tiny thing, as she was talking and, uh, we were talking about all of her activities 00:29:00and everything and all of my activities, at one point she just, just said, off- handedly, she says, "Well, I assume you're a socialist" and went on talking about something else, you know. And just sort of let- -left it laying there on the table, you know. I was think, hmm, she assumes I'm a socialist. Let me see--(laughs)--I don't know, because then, and then later on we talked about it and she said-- I said, "I'm intrigued that you, you assume that I'm a socialist. Because I, I don't know very much about this. You know." Uh, I said, "I don't even really know very much about the communists and everything, or socialists." And I said, "The only thing that I really read that's political is, uh, this magazine that a friend of mine gave me a subscription to, uh, National Review." And I said, "I can tell from that magazine that I'm not conservative." You know. And, uh, and it, I 00:30:00said, it, "The thing that they jump on the most, uh, is, is liberals." And I said, "And most, you know, most of the things I believe in are- -they tend to be more of on, on the liberals thing. But I don't think I'm a liberal either. Maybe I am a socialist." (laughs) Oh, but I, but I do remember--

FOSL: And did she help you--

ZELLNER: --that's lib--

FOSL: --draw that out or, uh--

ZELLNER: Later on, I'm sure, yeah. The-- made the, uh--

FOSL: Well tell me--

ZELLNER: --made the distinctions between--

FOSL: --will you describe her to me physically as you--she was when you first met her? So she was--I'm thirty-five. She must have been slightly older than I am now, but less than forty, if this was '61. She would have been--

ZELLNER: Is this--

FOSL: --thirty--

ZELLNER: --true?

FOSL: --seven or eight.

ZELLNER: Is that right? And I was--

FOSL: How did she strike--

ZELLNER: --twenty I guess.

FOSL: --you?

ZELLNER: Twenty or twenty-one.

FOSL: Was she a youthful looking woman? Did she--


FOSL: --did--were you very aware of a vast age difference between the 00:31:00two of you?

ZELLNER: Well, yes, I was aware of that because she was grown.

FOSL: Right. (laughs)

ZELLNER: You know. She was grown and she had a profession. She was uh, a journalist.

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: You know, she was a reporter. And, uh, my first relationship with Anne was as a reporter. She was asking about this story and so forth and I was responding and boom, boom, boom. And I had already been introduced to her by the, uh, by the attorney general. So I knew she was important. You know, and so I, I just knew that, uh, she was, uh, she was a very important woman and very, uh, very heavy duty. You know.

FOSL: Okay, but describe to me your first impression of her as, as you were--if you were describing her, how she looked to you.

ZELLNER: Well, uh, to me I thought she looked, she looked aristocratic. You know, I thought she was--I--she was high class. And I do think that she had talked about the Junior League or something. And the only 00:32:00thing I knew about the Junior League was that it was something that rich people did. You know, and Anniston, you know, it--Anniston is in North Alabama and everything, so I considered her practically a Yankee, you know. (laughs) Since Anniston is way up there in North Alabama. I had spent all my life in South Alabama. But I remember her as being, uh, uh, deceptively soft and gentle, because I had expected from the description of, you know, that--these communists, sort of, sneaking through and everything, that this was a soft and gentle woman. And, uh, I also had a--enough, um, I knew enough about communism and so forth to know that it didn't necessarily go along with the church. But I've, uh, I--you know, she said she was Presbyterian or something.

FOSL: Episcopal.

ZELLNER: Or Episcopal. Okay. And that, uh, you know, she, she wasn't 00:33:00a regular church-goer, but she went to church and so forth. And, and I found that, uh, to be intriguing.

FOSL: I mean she's very deeply religious in fact. Did that come across to you?

ZELLNER: Yeah. It did. It, uh, it, um--we, we sort of, uh, had a, a bond there--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --about the church and everything, which was the only thing discordant about it was that I didn't think that communists had anything to do with, uh, with the church and everything. And of course eventually I realized that, uh, while I'm calling her, you know, I'm calling her a communist because he's calling her a communist and so forth and--

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: --that doesn't--and then I went through a whole metamorphose later on to find out what real communists were about and everything, and I still didn't know whether or not she was a communist. But it didn't matter by that time. You know, um, but she was, uh, she had soft auburn hair. Uh, I think it was auburn hair, sort of, uh, you know, very light--

FOSL: Dark brown.

ZELLNER: --or, or dark brown.


FOSL: Oh, well, it's hard to tell from the pictures really.


FOSL: Maybe it was light brown.

ZELLNER: Yeah, and, um, she had a, a very direct, uh, a very direct approach.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: And, uh, she had a, uh, an authority about her that I was not used to having from women, I guess. Sort of a direct, you know--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --very business-like, um, but with a, a real good twinkle in her eye and a, and a, a sense of, of, uh, benevolence, you know and goodness--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --in her. And of course I had no way of knowing at that very early moment how fiercely dedicated, uh, the woman, uh, was and, and is. And how near, uh, a living sainthood she probably is, you know. But she'd probably get mad at me for saying that--(laughs)--but I mean she gives you, uh, something hard to live up to, I'll tell you. That's 00:35:00for sure.

FOSL: But back to Highlander.

ZELLNER: Back to Highlander. Okay. Well, the Highlander thing was, uh, was more or less of a blur to me because so many things were happening. It was like zooming up there for the weekend--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --and here was a meeting, uh, these SNCC people and I had met some of them, uh, just, uh, very fleeting, a fleeting meeting before in Montgomery at the non-violent workshop, because I think there was a few SNCC people there. And there was--it's, uh, it's just a measure of how naive I was that I don't remember who. You know, I should remember and I'm--I might be able with history and everything, we might be able to find out who of the SNCC people were at that, that workshop, but the workshop was also--so, um, such a turmoil because we knew from the time we went in that we would probably be arrested. It was more or less a demonstration.

FOSL: In Montgomery?

ZELLNER: In Montgomery, yeah. And, uh, so, you know, I mean so many 00:36:00things were happening at once. But the Highlander thing, that's when I specifically met, uh, I met, uh, Guy and Candy, I think. They were from, uh, Candy was, uh, I guess at Fisk, uh--

FOSL: And Myles.

ZELLNER: --an exchange, yeah, Myles. Uh, and, uh, Aimee. I, I don't, I don't know if Aimee was there, uh, then or not. But I guess Aimee was there. Myles. Uh, Thorsten--

FOSL: Marion Barry.

ZELLNER: --and, uh, Charis. Why they were little kids. Uh, Marion, Marion was there. Um, John Lewis. Uh, uh, Bernard Lafayette. Um, uh, Bernard and, um, uh, Bevel. Uh, Diane--

FOSL: --and Diane--

ZELLNER: --Diane Nash. The whole, uh, Jim Lawson was there, I think, probably C.T. Vivian. I think the whole, uh, Nashville contingent was 00:37:00there. So I met them right away. Uh, and, you know, a whole bunch of other SNCC people that I--they--I don't know if they remember me from that meeting or not, but I remember a good number of them. But I'm sure I--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --don't remember all of 'em because the staff had not coalesced at that point. It was still the, the, they were getting ready to. People were making their commitments and deciding not to go back to school that fall and they were coming together and boom, boom, boom. And, um, it--the main thing that happened was, I found out that they were gonna have a summer program at Highlander. And, uh, I was interested in, uh-- I didn't know what was I gonna do for the summer. But I wanted to do something related to the movement. And, uh, I don't know if Anne set this up with Myles or not, but they asked me if I'd like to be a counselor for the summer program.

FOSL: I didn't even know you did that.


ZELLNER: And that's what I did the summer after I, I graduated. I finally graduated in June of, of '61 and, uh, went, you know, went home for a few days and then packed up and went to, uh, Highlander along with my baby brother. Went--my, uh, my, my baby brother Malcolm was gonna be going into integrated schools and everything. So he was one of the southern student-- the, the summer program at Highlander for '61 was one of the last pro-, it was probably the last summer program they had at Monteagle.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: And they were having it for, uh, students across the South who were going--black students and white students who were gonna go into newly integrated classrooms.

FOSL: Hmm.

ZELLNER: So my bro-, my brother was one of the, um, campers and I was a lifeguard and, um, and counselor for the summer. So I was sort of a--I became an instant, uh, instant veteran or expert on various questions. 00:39:00(laughs)

FOSL: And so what is your recollection of how you came to this--the white student project then?

ZELLNER: Well, uh, what happened was that during the summer of '61, there were, there were some other meetings at Highlander. And, um, I'm--I had met, uh, some of the, some of the Nashville people at the sp-, uh, spring meeting that I went to at Highlander, and also, um, started going with, um, Susan, uh, Weber, who was, uh, involved in the--a white, uh, student from Nashville who was involved in the sit-in movement in Nashville. So we started going back and forth. And it was that summer that Anne told me about, uh, that SCEF was gonna make a grant to SNCC for, uh, a campus traveler and they were looking for 00:40:00somebody and was I interested. And I--she must have known that I would be interested. And I said, "Absolutely." There was no, no doubt in my mind, no question in my mind that I would be very interested. And she said, "Well, uh, you, maybe you better apply for that position." I said, "Well, how do I go about that?" And she told me who to, who to write to and so forth and so, I, I wrote and, uh, it was a cre-, it was during the summer that it was all settled.

FOSL: And so when did you start?

ZELLNER: So by the end of the summer, uh, in August, it was decided some time about the middle of August, I would say, uh, that uh, that I would be chosen. I was gonna be selected for this position. And I think the grant was for five thousand dollars from SCEF to SNCC to do this campus traveling. And, uh, so when I finished up at Highlander I went back 00:41:00home with, uh, my baby brother Malcolm and spent about a week getting ready. And--

FOSL: How'd your parents feel about this?

ZELLNER: Well, uh, they--my, my mother had, uh--(clears throat)--during the time I was at Huntingdon, and we, getting in all this quote trouble, unquote, I was very close to, uh, to dropping out of school and just going on to, for, to movement work then. Uh, or at least I was, I was ful-, I, I was convinced that I wouldn't be able to graduate because I was not going to go by their rules.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: And I assumed that they weren't gonna let me get away with it. I assumed that they were gonna run me off. And therefore I would have the choice of either going to school somewhere else or just going in the movement. I had no idea what joining the movement meant. But I had already determined that when I graduated or got kicked out or 00:42:00whatever, I was gonna join the movement. And, um, that's why when this, this situation with, uh, SCEF and SNCC came by, I was just perfectly ready for it. It was, like, made, uh, you know, it was, it was all packaged up in heaven and made for me. And away I went. I-- but, the w-, what they felt about it, my mother specifically, was that all during that last semester while I was at college at Huntingdon, she kept pleading with me in letters and phone calls and everything, please do your best to finish. Go ahead and get your degree. You're so close to it and everything. It's only weeks and so forth. You, you've, you know, you got these honors and everything. And forget--just try to restrain yourself.

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: And she said, "I will support you in anything that you do after that." You know, so she sort of made a bargain with me.


FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: And the same way that she had done when I wanted to play football in high school. I was torn between, uh, being in the band and playing football. And I'm sure she didn't want me to get hurt. And so she bought me a trombone, which sort of forced me into, well, the family has sacrificed a hundred and twenty something dollars, whatever, it was big money in those days. And then I was committed to, uh, go and do the band. And so she was committed in a way, that if I would finish, and I told her, uh, when I was in college, I said, "Well, I will finish if they let me. I'm gonna do all my work and everything."

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: "And I'm gonna take my exams and I'm sure I'm gonna pass everything. And if they'll let me, uh, finish, I will. I will restrain myself until that time." She said, "Well, if you do, I'll support you in anything you do." So they were committed then, you see, to supporting me. And in fact after I went back from Huntingdon to, 00:44:00uh--I mean from Highlander to home, it was, uh, it was my father and several other ministers from the Alabama-West Florida Conference of, of my Methodist Church--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --that drove me to Atlanta and delivered me to the SNCC office.

FOSL: Huh.

ZELLNER: Hmm. And that was on September the 11th, 1961. There's a couple of dates that I remember for sure, and one is September the 11th, 1961.

FOSL: Now do you attribute--

ZELLNER: --the day I went--

FOSL: --this different view that you had on race from many of your other peers to your parents and your Methodist--

ZELLNER: Uh, they, they were very--

FOSL: --pastoral upbringing?

ZELLNER: Yeah, they were--that was very influential. Uh, that was one, that was one influence.

FOSL: And it sounds like you just were a big rebel too. So I'm sure that--at that age.

ZELLNER: Yeah, uh, I was--I didn't realize, uh, the extent to which I was a rebel. But as I looked back, I was pretty rebellious. Uh, something appealed to me about, uh, defying authority. I mean 00:45:00literally. I was--and probably from growing up now that I'm in therapy and all that, you know--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --and, uh, I hate for people to psychoanalyze these things. But having a very strict father and a very strict mother and being in a very strict family, the--I, you know, my mother and father both came from Bob Jones Col-, University, you know. Fundamentalists to the hardcore. And fath-, Daddy was in the Klan and my grandfather was in the Klan.

FOSL: Your dad?

ZELLNER: My father was a Klansman. Yeah.

FOSL: Well, so how did he deal with this liberal race position?

ZELLNER: Dealt with it like, uh, like a, like a radical.

FOSL: It sounds like he was liberal, too.

ZELLNER: He was. He was. He changed.

FOSL: I mean would you say he was more than liberal?

ZELLNER: Oh yeah. I think he was--it--within the context of the church, my father was a radical. Yeah. Because when he left the Klan he, he, uh, he didn't just become a wishy-washy person. He went--he, he quit the Kl-, the Klan and became a integrationist and a fighter in the 00:46:00church for, uh, for integration.

FOSL: And what transformed him on that?

ZELLNER: Well, a number of things. Uh, number one is that went to Europe and it's very strange because he went to Europe with, with Dr. Bob Jones, after whom I'm named, by the way. I'm named after Dr. Bo- , Bob Jones. And Daddy went with, uh, Bob Jones to Europe, uh, right before the second world war on an evangelistic tour. And Dad stayed, uh, for, uh, a year or a number of months in Europe, sort of on an underground circuit of churches in Germany, Poland, parts of Russia and so forth. And, uh, I think their, their aim was to, uh, quote, convert the Jews, to save 'em, you know, they could save 'em from the--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --gas chambers and everything if they'd just convert to Christianity and all that. Well, Daddy had some experiences there when, when later--even when I was a young person, I realized that we, 00:47:00we were, we felt differently about--toward black people--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --colored people you called 'em in those days or we felt different toward color--

[Pause in recording.]

ZELLNER: He said, that, that he had some experiences there that had, uh, sh-, shaped him--12:30?

FOSL: Are we doing all right? Can you take a little more time?

ZELLNER: Yeah, I think so. I'm--I may have to go out front and look for a, for Shirley. We are close to the lobby of the hotel--

FOSL: Yeah.

ZELLNER: --anyway, right? Okay. Um, it-- one of the experiences that he had was, that his little group, uh, his interpreter, his guide, himself, had joined up with a group of gospel singers from the South on this little underground circuit of, uh, evangelical churches. And, uh, they were black. And, uh, he said, "It was the first time for a number of weeks and months and everything that he was--lived with and spent 00:48:00a lot of time with black people." And he said, "The most disconcerting thing kept happening, he kept forgetting they were black."

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: And, um, he said, "Finally it took so much effort, he figured, well, if it takes that much energy, I--forget it." You know, 'cause there's nobody around here that's gonna pull my coat anyway. And so he really did have a personal, you know, intimate experience with black people. Learned to, to love them, I guess, as human beings and everything. And it spoiled him as a Klansman. You know, so when he came back, not only had he had that experience, he'd seen the rise of Nazism and knew probably his national--his United States nationalism had clashed with his Nazi thinking in the past, because he sees these Nazis, now they're anti-Americans, so forth. So I don't know what it was, but something caused him--I think the main thing was that he was a Christian and an intelligent man, and he couldn't, in the final analysis, cause, uh, segregation and oppression and all those things, 00:49:00he couldn't, uh, make it mesh with the Christian gospel.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: So when he switched over from being a Bob Jones, uh, fundamentalist, he became a, a progressive--

FOSL: And now was he worried about--

ZELLNER: --integrationist.

FOSL: --the communist thing? I know there's some reference to that in the papers somewhere, in Anne's papers.

ZELLNER: Yeah, he was always, he was always fixated on the question, in a strange way, because--

FOSL: I remember read-, I, I got that impression and I don't know why.

ZELLNER: Well, it--part of it was that I think he was a spy. I mean part of what he was doing in Europe was he was being, uh, run by, uh, the intelligence services and so forth. He was being-- certainly debriefed and everything by them and had had an experience, uh, over probably years and years and years as a FBI or CIA informer and this that and the other. But he had-- one of the things that he did early in my childhood was he went to Boston, uh, in defense of Bishop Oxnam 00:50:00who was a Methodist bishop who was charged with being a communist.

FOSL: Right, I've heard of that case.

ZELLNER: And they tried to defrock the bishop and he went--my father went with some other liberal clergymen from the South to defend Oxnam. So then--Daddy was always, uh, a dichotomist on the question of, of communism. It was very strange because he, he was on the SCEF board and he was very close to Jim Dombrowski and, and other people and everything. So--

FOSL: Now this was before you ----------(??)--no, this was after.

ZELLNER: No, this was afterwards, yeah. Afterwards. But he was still, you know, my father was still, I think, uh, reflexively anti-communist. Uh--

FOSL: --so what was his opinion of the ------------(??)--

ZELLNER: --but he, one of the things he told me before his, before his stroke, though, also, was to never trust the, the, the United States government.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: Whatever, uh, relationship he had had with the FBI and all those things, you know, he eventually came to say that they were, they 00:51:00were totally, completely immoral or amoral and, you know, the worst, worst bastards in the world.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: So he says, don't--he didn't have to tell me because I was not gonna, uh, cooperate with the FBI in any kind of sense anyway.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: But he always felt that he could get some protection. He felt that the federal government, at least, had some opposition to, uh, the Klan and--

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: --and, you know, segregationists, this that and the other. And so I think he tried to part-, he tried to, uh, you know, whip-saw, uh, that situation--

FOSL: Yeah.

ZELLNER: --in whatever way--

FOSL: And so was he suspicious of ----------(??)?

ZELLNER: --he was basically. Um, no, I don't think he was.


ZELLNER: You know, no. I, uh, and Jim Dombrowski and so forth and others, and, uh, and Myles, I think he recognized, uh, instinctively, because a lot of their backgrounds, you see, were coming up through the 00:52:00church anyway.

FOSL: Right, definitely, definitely. Christian socialism.


FOSL: Well, um, as you began with the what student project--well, two questions on that. One is, how closely were you really working with Anne? And--or I mean, what was your relationship with her at that point throughout that period? And two, is, um, what, what do you see as her role with SNCC during that period?

ZELLNER: Okay. I can remember the question. Can we turn this off just a second and let me just run out--

FOSL: Yeah--

ZELLNER: --and see if--

[Pause in recording.]


FOSL: Okay.

ZELLNER: And I said I would remember the question.

FOSL: Do you want me to repeat it?

ZELLNER: Oh yeah, uh, what was the interaction with Anne and when I had started the--

FOSL: And what did you see as her role in SNCC and maybe some other people's perceptions of her?

ZELLNER: Oh okay. Well, Anne played a very important role in SNCC. Uh, Anne and Carl. And the, the whole SCEF establishment. But especially Anne because Anne was the closest, uh, with the SNCC people, I think. 00:53:00Uh, Carl sometimes didn't have enough patience, I think, you know he was gruff and, uh, you know, and--but Anne had plenty of patience and she would sit long periods. And Carl wanted to get things done and get it on three by five cards and move forward.

FOSL: Yep.

ZELLNER: You know, uh, but, uh, Anne spent a lot of time. And, uh, the, the contributions are, are--yeah, I can make a list of them.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: But I would have to start with the whole thing on red-baiting to be the, the main, one of the main contributions that she made to the movement, not just to SNCC, but to--

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: --you know, she interacted with SCLC and I'm sure other organizations and people too on the question of red-baiting, uh, because--I mean now it seems, uh, strange that would be a tremendously important question, but it was a pivotal question at the end of the 00:54:00fifties and the early sixties

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: Uh, because that was the, the st-, stopper. Whenever the segregationist forces had to have the final stopper, they would use the, the red card. And Anne, uh, and, uh, Carl and everybody else was very clear that you had to have a, uh, an inclusive position just, if for no other reason, tactically and strategically.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: You had to have it because they could stop you if you started, uh, having loyalty oaths and, uh, and witch-hunts within your organization, it was just simply not gonna work.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: And, uh, she, she had that influence in, uh, in SNCC. Uh, parallel battle was fought inside of SDS and so forth. And I think that Anne even had a influence in SDS through SNCC, uh--

FOSL: Um-hm.


FOSL: Through Tom.

ZELLNER: --thing. Tom. Me. And so forth. Um, I was on the first national executive committee of, uh, of SDS. And we were very clear 00:55:00and SDS even took a lot of, uh, cues from SNCC and so forth, and SNCC had had taken positions through, uh, Moses and Forman and so forth and so on that we would not, we, we would not have an exclusionary policy. So that was one of the main influences they had. Now it didn't mean that there wasn't some, uh, some nascent, uh, uh, nervousness, you know, on the question of reds this--

FOSL: Okay.

ZELLNER: --and reds that and the other.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: But the, the important thing was that SNCC, no matter what its reservations, said, "Okay, we'll agree with you that we have to have, uh, this position. That we will not red bait."

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: And, uh, therefore if you don't red-bait it's, you know, it's very difficult for you to be--you can be red-baited, but not if, not efficiently. Not effectively red-baited.


FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: If you red-bait, you can, can definitely be red-baited. If you don't red-bait you have--that's your only protection against--so they were, they were very clear about that. Um, I was very ambivalent about my own feelings about red-baiting because I had a difficult, uh, time separating, uh, my reflexive anti-communism--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --uh, from being torn between, in a sense, torn between SNCC and SCEF. Because I did not want to be seen as a SCEF as a--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --SCEF person. I was a SNCC person. Period. You know. And I didn't deny the, uh, the SCEF, uh, connection and so forth. In fact- -and for the first several years, not just for the period of the, uh, 00:57:00grant, I attended most of the SCEF board meetings and everything--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --and I would make a re-, in the first years I would always make a report on the, uh, on the, the campus traveling and the, what had happened and so forth. So I got to be very, uh, I got to know, uh--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --all the SCEF people and everything. And, uh, to have, uh, an appreciation for their, uh, for their contribution and their role in the movement, which I think was very, you know, the civil liberties issue was the key issue that they tackled. They were always very clear on it. If they hadn't have been, it would have been a disaster for the movement, because they, they were the, they were the leadership on the question of civil liberties. Uh, and so my, my feelings are, uh, are still, you know, some-, somewhat ambivalent about that period because, 00:58:00uh, I didn't want ever to be influenced by anti-communism or, uh, you know, looking under the bed, who's, who's a communist and who's not. Uh, and yet I wo-, I had a little bit of a, of this thing of, um, you know, I just wanted to be clear that I'm SNCC. You know.

FOSL: Not because SCEF--

ZELLNER: And all that.

FOSL: --was seen as the communist organization--

ZELLNER: Yeah, not--

FOSL: --it was more--

ZELLNER: --not because of that.

FOSL: --like student, you wanted to be identified with, with SNCC because it was, was a student organization?

ZELLNER: Yeah, yeah. And I--

FOSL: And it was what, where it was happening.

ZELLNER: Yeah, it was where it was happening. And it was, it was where, it was where I was gonna be effective. I was gonna be effective as a SNCC representative, you know, to students, not as a, as a SNCC dash SCEF representative or, or whatever.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: But as a, as a SNCC representative.

FOSL: So you didn't follow----------(??)--

ZELLNER: And I think there was some resentment though. See, see, I think there was resentment on the, on the SCEF side sometimes too that they felt that was a little bit too stand-offish. And in fact when 00:59:00in '67, when the, the, uh, SNCC made the decision to be an all black organization--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --um, we came back, we, we went on the, uh, on the SCEF staff and even then, uh, since we was--

FOSL: When you said, "we," you mean you and Dottie?

ZELLNER: Uh, Dottie and I, yeah. And even then we were very clear to want a degree of, uh, of autonomy for the project, because we were gonna do the--I thought in the very beginning that we were gonna do the GROW Project. The GROW Project was proposed as a SNCC project. It was one of--I wanted it to be a SNCC project. And it was the final decision in SNCC to be an all black organization--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --when they said, no, they couldn't, uh, the GROW Project could not be done as a, as a SNCC project. So that--but I felt that I wanted to work, uh, in doing the project, I wanted to work closely with SNCC, 01:00:00as closely as possible with SNCC. It didn't turn out to be, to be, uh, possible.

FOSL: Yeah.

ZELLNER: But, uh, we argued for a fairly high degree of autonomy of that project, even within the SCEF--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --uh, organization.

FOSL: Yeah. Well, um, yeah, there's a lot to cover and we don't have that much time here. But, um, in terms of per-, how influential was Anne, do you think, as an individual among the young people in SCEF-- uh, I mean in SNCC. I know that, like, Dottie, for instance. Maybe you could just say briefly how Dottie came into the picture.

ZELLNER: Uh, well, it-- how Dottie came into the movement and so forth--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --you mean? Well, she was, uh, in New York and, um, she was very interested in the southern struggle from the time of the--I suppose of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the, uh, but sit-ins really 01:01:00galvanized her along with everybody else. And she originally came south, uh, for a, a meeting, a conference in Miami, sponsored by, uh, Congress of Racial Equality, CORE.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: And then after that meeting, she went with some of the, uh, some of the black young people from CORE to, uh, new--here to New Orleans for a while and then back to New York where she started making her plans to figure out how to get south and work with the movement. And she eventually came up with the idea of working with the Southern Regional Council in Atlanta.

FOSL: Oh, I didn't know that.

ZELLNER: So she came, she came south originally--she was one of the early, early people to come south--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --prob-, maybe one of the first people to come south with the idea of working with the student movement.

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: And in order to do that, she got a job with the, with, um, Southern Regional Council and became a volunteer in the SNCC office. 01:02:00And then at some point, probably a year or so after she was with Southern Regional Council. And what she was doing with the Southern Regional Council was compiling, uh, statistics and facts and so forth about the student movement and preparing what they call white papers.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: So she was basically collecting facts and, uh, maybe not so much analysis, but a lot of facts about where the sit-ins were occurring--

FOSL: What--

ZELLNER: --how many people, all that.

FOSL: --I just got the idea that she and Anne were particularly close, 'cause I know Anne has this memory of, like, lots of phone calls in the middle of the night from Dottie saying, "Do you know where Bob is? He's in Mississippi somewhere in jail. Or, you know."

ZELLNER: Oh yeah, well they, they were, they were very close, because, uh, uh, Dottie sort of took me on as a, as a personal project of hers, uh, very soon, while she was still a volunteer in the, uh, in the SNCC 01:03:00office. And, um, it was because she was writing these, uh, eh, after leaving--uh, well, she was working at, um, Southern Regional Council and then coming to S-, coming to SNCC she was doing, doing the, sort of the same things--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --compiling facts about what's happening. And, uh, so she was writing about McComb and so forth, where I was arrested in. So she, she got acquainted with me as a, as a field person who was in trouble a lot, I guess, first that way. But what eventually brought her full-time to, uh, SNCC was that the FBI came to, uh, Southern Regional Council and told 'em that they would have to get rid of her because of her, uh, connection with communists. So she was red-baited with the pictures and all this business and everything. And, um--

FOSL: And this was Anne and Carl--

ZELLNER: --Leslie Dunbar--

FOSL: --largely? Or--

ZELLNER: Uh, no, it wasn't Anne and Carl at all. I think it was, uh, 01:04:00connections--

FOSL: Just--

ZELLNER: --in New York.

FOSL: Oh really?

ZELLNER: Yeah. And, um, so they--and she had been to Moscow, um, you know, she had been to Moscow with Joanne Grant and some other things. She was considered a radical person. Hi. Did Joanne tell you we were here? All right good, I told her be sure to be on the lookout, 'cause I couldn't see the front door. And, uh, hey.



ZELLNER: You guys know each other.

FOSL: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: ----------(??) be left alone or?

ZELLNER: No. Come on--

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: ----------(??) sit--I'll sit over here.

ZELLNER: --come on over.

FOSL: Just pull up a chair.

ZELLNER: You can sit here.

FOSL: That's ----------(??).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I'll sit on the edge.

ZELLNER: All right.

FOSL: Yeah, we're still on the air. (laughs)

ZELLNER: Oh yeah, we are on the air. Okay, um, let's see, uh, but anyway, no, it wasn't because of Carl and Anne, it was because of, uh, New York connections and so forth. So when she was fired there, she just automatically started working full-time at, at--


FOSL: Um-hm.


FOSL: Well, what I was really trying to get at is what sort of--I mean do you feel--or what sort of influence did Anne have on the women of SNCC? Would you say there was a particular bond there? Or--I mean how much was she really around? That's what I can't quite get a sense of.

ZELLNER: Um-hm. Well, uh, you know, it's funny because my sense of her being around would probably be different from other people's, because for me she was around a lot more, because I was doing SNCC things and doing SCEF things and, and I was seeing her a lot. And it was--I mean she--I was, I guess I was sort of reporting to her more or less, in terms of the, uh, of the SCEF thing. Because at that time she and--no, Jim Dombrowski was the executive director and they were organizers or whatever.

FOSL: Um-hm. Um-hm.


FOSL: But they were kind of running the show.

ZELLNER: But they were kind of running the show, yeah, even though 01:06:00Jim was here in New Orleans or with the, with the SCEF office and everything and doing the mailings and all that. They, they were sort of in charge. So my sense was that she was around a lot. And I think that, uh, you know, just analyzing the situation, maybe I didn't understand this at that time, but now I can see that probably Anne, uh, provided a sort of a role model for--

FOSL: Right. And that's what I thought, but I haven't really--

ZELLNER: --for women--

FOSL: --interviewed any of the--


FOSL: --SNCC women about that.

ZELLNER: Yeah. It would be interesting to, um, to see. Because she enjoyed, of course, immense, uh, prestige--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --uh, because of her, her, you know, activity or years in the movement, her dedication and everything. Everybody knew--I mean you could just meet her and you could tell that that-- the movement was her life and everything. So, um, I guess Dottie and, um, and Anne were very 01:07:00close because, uh, uh, Dottie and I got married and, uh, so Dottie and Anne were the most important women in my life, I guess. You know, uh--

FOSL: What year did you all marry?

ZELLNER: We got married in September of '63. No. August of '63 I guess. So exactly, uh, almost exactly two years after mar-, I came to, uh, to SNCC.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: And, uh, I was, no, '61, would be '62, '63, I guess, would be two years, yeah. And I was about to go to, uh, enroll in graduate school at Brandeis for a year.

FOSL: Oh yeah, I remember Anne mentioning that. And did you?

ZELLNER: I did, yeah. I was following, uh, uh--Chuck McDew had done it the year before. He had worked a couple of years and then gone 01:08:00into a year of graduate school. And I was by the end of the summer of '63, I was pretty much a basket case. I mean I didn't-- I don't think I realized it very much at the time, but I was exhausted. Worn out. And, uh, that whole brutal summer of '63 was, um, Danville.

FOSL: Um-hm. Um-hm.

ZELLNER: And in and out of jail and, sort of, oh God. And so, we got married and then I was gonna go to, um, up to, uh, Brandeis. Uh, you know, about half for a rest--

FOSL: Right, I ----------(??).

ZELLNER: --and about the other half was to try to do some studying. And I wasn't serious about, uh, I guess if I'd a been serious, I would have gotten my masters degree. But it--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --wa-, seemed though to me that that was-- the masters degree was a very small, very small potatoes at the time. And uh, Dottie 01:09:00immediately set up the, uh, New England SNCC office and we got thrown into fundraising and all that. And by the second year--

FOSL: So she wasn't in school?

ZELLNER: Uh, no she wasn't in school. No. Uh, in fact she got pregnant a little bit shortly after that. Let's see, '63, '64 was the first year. Um-hm. Or--are you gonna, going to find Joanne?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: No, I'll sit ----------(??).

ZELLNER: Okay, well we're gonna go, uh, get some lunch too. Okay? All right. So '63, '64 it was actually the first year at Brandeis because, uh, shortly after the turn of the year, we got heavily involved into recruiting for the summer of '64.

FOSL: Right, I bet.

ZELLNER: And, uh, she was running S-, the, uh, whole--a lot of the recruitment and screening effort for all the New England area. And I 01:10:00was doing, uh, recruiting and, you know, traveling, speaking and this that and the other. And then we, we rushed down to Mississippi and spent the summer of '64 there, that horrendous summer. And then back--

FOSL: Now was she pregnant at that time?

ZELLNER: --for our second year. No, I think she must have gotten pregnant when we went back by the--no, she wasn't pregnant during the summer of '64. So she got pregnant, I guess, in the f-, uh, fall of '64.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: After, after the, the, uh, s-, the summer project.

FOSL: Okay, well I know we need to end 'cause we need to get some lunch and--

ZELLNER: Um-hm. Um-hm.

FOSL: --I've, gonna get out of this town in about an hour. But--

ZELLNER: Oh you are, well--

FOSL: And it, well, it--

ZELLNER: --you heading--

FOSL: --going to ----------(??), so.

ZELLNER: Oh okay.

FOSL: But, um, two hours. But just, will you just, like, very briefly tell me, like, sort of what you were doing with SCEF in various years, just so I--I've got this, but it'd be good to just get it--


FOSL: --sequentially. And then--


ZELLNER: I'll try.

FOSL: --that's gonna give me a better idea of how to plan our next interview.

ZELLNER: Okay, all right. Well, it--that first year in SNCC, uh, September to September, uh, was on the, the grant.

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: And I never had any, uh, real sense of when the grant stopped in there. Because by the end of the first year, the patterns were pretty much set because, uh, in fact after the first couple of months, um, I--everybody got such a little amount of money--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --that, uh, the money just went into the SNCC fund and whatever I had to have for travel expenses came back that and I don't think I had a, a salary or anything like that. It was mostly whatever. I didn't have a place to live even. I didn't even have an apartment. And so Forman just sort of took charge of the money and he said--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --uh, he said, "I hope you realize that this is one of our main resources for the whole organization." (laughs)

FOSL: (laughs) Right, right.

ZELLNER: "And whatever you need, you know, you let me know. But this is--we considering this our, you know, a major, a major--"


FOSL: Budget item.

ZELLNER: --"bunch of--budget item for the, for the organization." And that was fine with me. But, so the first year after, um, McComb, I was arrested in McComb and then I had to go back to McComb for a number of times.

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: My first year was, uh, I was campus traveling sa-, sandwiched in between a number of campaigns and arrests. And I can remember the arrests because I, I went, uh, to Atlanta September, and so the following month I was arrested October.

FOSL: In Atlanta?

ZELLNER: Uh, no, I was arrested in Mc-, in McComb.

FOSL: Okay.

ZELLNER: Uh, at the, at the march and everything. So--then I can remember the first two or three arrests because every month I was arrested somewhere.

FOSL: Hmm.

ZELLNER: So I was arrested--

FOSL: Yeah, Anne's told me that.

ZELLNER: Okay, I was arrested in McComb in October. And then November I wasn't arrested. In December I, I was arrested.

FOSL: Again in McComb.

ZELLNER: No, it--this time it was in, um, uh, east--


FOSL: Albany?

ZELLNER: --Baton Rouge parish, uh, in--it was in Baton Rouge. And it was following a, one of the, uh, McComb trials, because we had to keep going back to McComb for trials. And we had a trial, we had a trial there and we had to go see Dion Diamond who was arrested in Baton Rouge. And we were on the way to New Orleans to rest or something, or meet with some students here, Chuck McDew and I, and we stopped to tell Dion that we were trying to get his bail and everything, and they captured us and charged us with criminal anarchy. So I spent about a month in jail there. And so I wasn't arrested in the following January but February I was arrested again in, uh, Albany, Georgia. So I'm trying to remember how I squeezed in--(laughs)--my, my campus traveling. But I did--


FOSL: Well, Anne said you didn't do much.

ZELLNER: I didn't do much traveling--not, not in the first few months, I--probably.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: But then I did, uh, had several tours then. I, I went, um, to, um, uh, Arkansas. Took a tour to Arkansas, uh, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and then back to Atlanta. And I did that at least on two occasions, uh, did that, uh, that tour. Because after the, uh, Albany arrest in February, I don't think I was arrested again until, uh, Talladega. So it was pretty much after, uh, the February thing that I really--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --got into the, the campus traveling. But, you know, if you think about history--uh, sometimes I think they got mad with me because I did all these other things and not, did do--didn't do the campus traveling. But by the time I had done, uh--and some of these other 01:15:00things I didn't plan. I didn't plan to be arrested in McComb, in, um, uh, Baton Rouge. The only--and I didn't plan to be arrested in McComb. The only thing I planned, the only time I planned to be arrested was when I went on the freedom ride to Albany. That was a, a, an arrest situation. Uh, but certainly, after all of these things, I was, I was really able to rep-, I was certainly able to represent SNCC after that. And, um--

FOSL: Sort of a trial by fire?

ZELLNER: Yeah. Yeah.

FOSL: Well, um, okay, so that whole first year we sort of got covered. And then was the grant continuing? Were you still sort of employed as part of this white student project after that, for--

ZELLNER: Now, whether or not-- I don't think that I was-- uh, that the grant was continuous specifically for me to do campus traveling the next year. Although I did more campus traveling the, the second year I 01:16:00did than I did the first year.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: But I, I can't remember, because, um, I, I, I really wasn't involved in setting up the grants and so forth.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: That was Forman, mostly Forman and, and Anne handled all that. And they may have done it again, because I did-- the second year, I did more specific, uh, trav-, campus traveling. Because I remember I was at Ole Miss when--during the Meredith thing. And then I was, uh, I don't know, a number of other, other tours, um, uh, I--Birmingham, Montgomery. When I went back to Montgomery, uh, during the second year, I believe it was the second year-- no, it was the first year. That's one of the arrests I left out I guess. I went back to Huntingdon and met with Sam Shirah--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --and some of the students that had been involved with me 01:17:00before and had come back.

FOSL: Was Sam Shirah in that--

ZELLNER: Sam Shirah--

FOSL: --first five?

ZELLNER: Uh, no, he wasn't in the first five. But Sam Shirah came to Huntingdon and was close friends with John Hill who was one of the first five.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: So I went to Hunt-, went back to Huntingdon to meet with Sam Shirah and John Hill and that's when I was arrested by, uh, George Wallace.

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: And then there was a big Montgomery trial and jury trial and all that. I've forgotten exactly what the date of that was. And then later on, uh, Forman actually sent me to Talladega to do some sit-ins. Uh, to do workshops and so forth and to direct some sit ins. I wasn't really supposed to direct sit-ins. I was supposed to go do some workshops. And then somebody black from the, um, staff was supposed to come when the demonstrations started and everything. Then nobody ever came. So I just sort of did the, the usual SNCC thing there. In 01:18:00fact a lot of the students said when I first came they just thought I was the lightest skinned black person that they'd ever--(laughs)--met. (laughs) Hmm.

FOSL: Well, um, okay, so then after '64, when you went back to Brandeis, you were up there. Dottie was directing the volunteers.

ZELLNER: Yeah, '63--

FOSL: Trying to ----------(??) with the volunteers.

ZELLNER: --we got married and then went, uh, '63--

FOSL: --came back--

ZELLNER: --'64 and then '64--

FOSL: --for the Mississippi Freedom Summer.

ZELLNER: --went to--

FOSL: You then went back--

ZELLNER: --Freedom Summer.

FOSL: --to Brandeis at the end of the summer?

ZELLNER: Oh, let's see. Now after--when we got married in '63, uh, we got married in Atlanta. And then we went, uh, to the West Coast for-- supposedly for a honeymoon. I think we did some--(laughs)--fundraising things in LA and in San Francisco and then I had a--


ZELLNER: Uh, for SNCC. And then I had a fundraising thing in, uh, our conference or something that I was supposed to speak at, at Corning, New York. So we drove to New York. And then we drove from Corning, 01:19:00New York to Washington for the March on Washington. Back to Atlanta to get our stuff. And then to, uh, to, to Waltham to, to start Brandeis. And that was all between August the 9th and September the 23rd. So, I mean that's just the way we moved in those days, by car. We drove all that time and everything. Probably, uh, about, uh, ten thousand miles or so in, uh, six weeks. And that's--so I arrived, I must have arrived at, uh, Brandeis by Sep-, September of '63, I had to be, we all had to be utterly exhausted.

FOSL: Right. (Zellner laughs) Okay, so then when, at the end of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, what did you all do? You went back to Brandeis?

ZELLNER: Uh, yeah, the end of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, uh, the, the big thing that happened at the end of the summer was, uh, Atlantic City. And of course I was desperate to be there. Everybody wanted 01:20:00to be there. But, it--we couldn't--it--SNCC couldn't afford to have everybody there. Plus I--we had to go back and start the, uh, second year of school and get--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --the office together and everything. So we just listened to it on the radio while we drove back to Boston. Drove back and we visited, uh, her folks in New York and then we went on up to Boston for '64, '65.

FOSL: And what was her middle--her maiden name?

ZELLNER: Uh, Miller.

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: Dorothy Miller.

FOSL: Okay, so--

ZELLNER: So then we did, uh, '64, '65. And, uh, that year was mostly, uh, uh, well, we did a number of things. There were food and clothing drives. We had big food and clothing drives. And that was also the year of Selma, I believe.

FOSL: Right. It was, yeah.

ZELLNER: So Selma and we had--

FOSL: March '65.

ZELLNER: Yeah. Okay, March '65. So that spring there was Selma and we had big demonstrations in, uh, Boston which we organized and everything. I was arrested again in Boston and badly beaten by the cops. Took 01:21:00me to the hospital and said I had been in a automobile wreck. Uh, and then Margaret was born that year also. And then after that, uh, when the school year ended, the summer of '65 we went back to Atlanta.

FOSL: You just--


FOSL: --had one child?

ZELLNER: Yeah, we just, we have two. We had two eventually.

FOSL: Oh, I didn't know that. I just thought you had one.

ZELLNER: Uh, no, we have two: Margaret and Katie. Margaret was born in, uh, '60--what's this, '65 I guess. And Katie was born in, uh, '68 I believe. Uh, Katie was born in, uh, New Orleans, here in New Orleans after the GROW Project was started. But anyway, '65 we went back to Atlanta and, uh, we went, uh, Dottie was working in the communications 01:22:00department I guess. Uh, Julian, I believe, was gone by that time. And Dottie and Mary King, I believe, worked in communications. And I worked in the research department and did some traveling in Alabama, so forth. Uh, but it was--that was getting to be a very tense time around the SNCC office, 'cause it was after '64. You know, the racial tensions were getting more strongly and everything. And everybody was trying--doing their best to make an exception for me and Dottie--

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --and so forth. And it got very uncom-, uncomfortable. So I got an offer to, uh, be a campaign manager for Bob Cook, a peace campaign in New Haven, Connecticut. And that was gonna be the election of '66. So, uh, in late '65, uh, we went up to New Haven. And, uh, 01:23:00so it-- we--Margaret was, uh, just a baby. And Mar-, Dottie, I think, was ready to rest up a little bit. And she wasn't too much into the campaign. So she settled down and sort of be, uh, a mother and a housewife for the first time. Tried to practice doing that. And, uh, I was campaign manager for Bob Cook. And we were there for a year. And it was that year that a lot of the, uh, the things played out in SNCC--

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: --about white and black and so forth. There was the, uh, Kingston Springs meeting and which--where it probably first came up. And--

FOSL: Um-hm. Um-hm.

ZELLNER: --culminating with the, uh, Kerhonkson meeting. And, uh, we were, we were also-- already during the, uh, campaign in New Haven, I 01:24:00was developing the idea for the GROW Project, Grassroots Organize and Work. And, uh, I was talking to, uh, Carl and Anne about the program and so forth, and, and made it clear that we wanted to do it as a SNCC program. But they knew everything that was happening too, and, uh, eventually the Kingston Springs thing happened, I think while I was still in New Haven. And that was when the decision was made to be an all black organization.

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: And, um, then there was a later meeting in Atlanta, which I went down for with the GROW Project, to have a final thing, because it was still, uh, considered, uh--they were still considering whether or not to do the GROW Project as a SNCC thing. And I went to Atlanta and we had a, a big hoorah over that. And it was eventually decided that, uh, they would not do it because they wanted, uh, they wanted a 01:25:00compromise that we would be able to stay on the staff, uh, but with, the, but not come to meetings--

FOSL: Yeah.

ZELLNER: --or something like that. And I said, "Well, no, that won't work 'cause, uh, you know, we'd be a special category." And, uh, I said, "Well, uh, we'd be on staff. Do the, do the GROW Project and, and not vote." You know. And I said, "No, that's second class citizenship." (laughs)

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: "And that's not required of anybody else, and let's don't start now. And I'm not gonna start it." So.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: Eventually it was decided that it just couldn't do it.

FOSL: So then SCEF took on the project?

ZELLNER: So then SCEF took on the project 'cause SCEF was, uh--I mean they were very, very a-, acquainted with the project. In fact they had already told--they had already talked to, uh-- while we were in, uh, New Haven, they had talked to Dottie and I, uh, about sort of becoming a Carl and Anne team and taking over the executive directorship, 01:26:00co-dir-, co-executive directors of SCEF. 'Cause Carl and Anne wanted to continue to do the paper, to do organizing, boom, boom, boom. And we considered that. And then we decided that, no, we couldn't do that. I, I was, I was intrigued with the idea, somewhat interested in it. But I couldn't get this GROW Project out of my craw because I had told, uh, in the, in the negotiation with SNCC and everything, I, I made it very clear that it wasn't a case of doing it as a SNCC, uh, project or not doing it at all. It was going to be done. And I simply wanted to do it at SNCC.

FOSL: Um-hm.

ZELLNER: I was committed to do it and wanted to do it as a SNCC project.

FOSL: We're almost done.

ZELLNER: Almost.

FOSL: I swear. Three minutes--(Zellner laughs)--and then we're done.

ZELLNER: Come on. So it--


FOSL: Oh, it's fine.

ZELLNER: It's fine.

FOSL: Absolutely.

ZELLNER: Perfectly all right. As long as you'll sit close to me.



ZELLNER: All right? (laughs) So, uh, I, I to, had, I, I turned down, reluctantly turned down the, the position of executive director of SNCC.

FOSL: This must have been in '66?

ZELLNER: Uh, executive director of SCEF. In '66, yeah.

FOSL: And they took it on?

ZELLNER: They, yeah, they--because the question was, uh, of, um, uh, Jim retiring and so forth.

FOSL: Right, right.

ZELLNER: So that's when they took, they took on the, the joint, uh--

FOSL: Yeah, no that's true.

ZELLNER: --executive directorship.

FOSL: Okay, but the GROW Project.


FOSL: Maybe we should postpone this topic.

ZELLNER: And the GROW Project. No, I, I can talk about it just briefly because we're gonna talk again anyway.

FOSL: Right.

ZELLNER: But the GROW Project, we, we went, uh, let's see, did we go to Atlanta? No, we didn't--we, I'm sure we went through Atlanta. But we- -basically we went to Alabama to stay with my folks, uh, till we figured out where to locate. We--here we had the project and everything, it 01:28:00was on paper and we had no staff. And we had a commitment from, uh, from SCEF--

FOSL: Plus you had one child at this point.

ZELLNER: Plus we had one child, yeah. And, uh, we had a commitment from--commitment from SCEF. So I'm sure we went on SCEF, uh, uh, salary right away. Uh, you know, uh, which allowed us to do what it was that we were doing. But we went--uh, my folks lived in, uh, Calcedeaver, Alabama. And we went and stayed in Calcedeaver for a few weeks and I think, uh, Dottie and, and Margaret stayed with, uh, my folks, while I made a exploratory trip over to New Orleans. We had, uh, kicked around which cities and so forth that we could locate in. And, uh, we--my, my parents had pleaded, uh, for--not to make it any Alabama city.


FOSL: (laughs) Right. (Zellner laughs) That's what Anne's parents--

ZELLNER: Yeah. They said, "Well, you know, we've, we've been through a lot and everything. And it's gonna be more, more, uh, turmoil and everything. And it would be best not to go to anywhere in Alabama." And, uh, Atlanta was sort of out. Uh, I don't remember why Atlanta was eliminated. But New Orleans was sort of the, the, uh, natural place to do it because I had already, always considered New Orleans a sort of a safe area, because we had come out of Mississippi time and time again to, uh, the relative safety of New Orleans. And we figured we're gonna have a residential adult education center, and we're gonna bring people in from, quote, from the field for--and we'd need a safe, secure place. We can't be, uh, we don't want to have to have, uh, you know, armed warfare around the, uh, conference--

FOSL: Yeah.

ZELLNER: --center or whatever. So we came here and also it was reasonable because Dombrowski was here and Ben Smith was here and Bruce 01:30:00Waltzer and Jack Peebles and a lot of people that SCEF had developed over the years. And they provided a sort of a ready infrastructure for us. And that's the way the Grass-, or the GROW Project started. And then the staff built and then we went into a--the saga of the next, I mean that starts the saga of the next, uh, ten years I guess--

FOSL: Right. So--

ZELLNER: --it would be.

FOSL: --we'll, we'll save that.


[End of interview.]