EXCLUSIVE: Former SNCC Leader Backs Obama

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I’ve spent most of the last 70 years in Charlotte and North Carolina politics and I have never seen this kind of excitement for a primary. Truthfully, it reminds me so very much of the excitement of our movement in the 1960s.

Back then, I was harassed or arrested all over the South for fighting for my rights.  While a student at Johnson C. Smith University in 1960, I led more than 200 students into downtown to desegregate the lunch counters. We felt good about ourselves, doing the right thing by grabbing hold of a nonviolent way to change our society.  We sat at the lunch counters every day until by July of that year they opened to all people regardless of race.

I helped organize the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at Shaw University. I was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama as a freedom rider. I was arrested in Rock Hill, South Carolina for sitting at a lunch counter.  I spent 30 days hard labor on the chain gang just for trying to order a hamburger and Coke.


I went to jail with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while organizing the desegregation campaign in Albany, Georgia. SNCC was successful there because the people were ready and we achieved a level of total community organization that attracted Dr. King. Working with him then, I came to more fully understand the power of national and international communities working together.

This primary is very different for black North Carolinians of my generation.  Jesse Jackson showed us in ’87 that some day, if we worked and stayed together, we would have an African-American President of the United States of America. Brother Obama is that man and this is our time. He is us.

Brother Obama has generated such excitement for me, as a Black man, my friends and my community. He has the power and support of most black folk in the state, as well as a broad coalition.  Everyone sees that he is real.  And, that he has the policy ideas and experience to raise Americans to a level of mass involvement that is sorely needed at this time.

One of the most inspiring moments of my life was shaking Brother Obama’s hand after the rally that drew 14,000 people on Friday.  I told him how proud I was of him and gave my and my generation’s blessings to him and his generation.

I will with great pride be voting for Obama today and taking many of my neighbors to the polls to also vote for him.  I expect that he will win.  I have always believed that given the facts and the truth about the issues, the majority of Americans will do the right thing.  Electing Barack Obama president of these United States is the right thing.

J. Charles Jones, Esq., a key organizer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, is a graduate of Howard University Law School.  He has been practicing in Charlotte for 30 years.

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