Seabrookers John Reynolds and Mary Whyte are hosting “The Sounds of Motown” on Friday, February 23, 2018 at 6:00 pm at the Seabrook Island House. With live music and dancing, the evening should be a great time for a great cause, SCOPE50.
SCOPE50 is an Oral History Project designed to collect the personal accounts of the Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) Project volunteers who spent the summer of 1965 traveling through the south educating black people about their rights and registering them to vote. These volunteers are aging so it is important the Oral History Project be undertaken now, before these pieces of history are lost forever. These histories will then be made available to educators, students, voting rights organizations and archives.
John Reynolds and his history with the Civil Rights Movement make a compelling story.
Photo credit http://www.sclcscope50th.org
John Reynolds and the SCOPE Project
What were you doing during the summer of 1965? I was probably on a play ground or riding my bike around my neighborhood. Seabrook’s John Reynolds was experiencing something life changing. Born in 1946 in Troy, Alabama, John’s childhood was spent with his extended family on a plantation picking cotton and chopping peanuts for dollars a day. Life was hard and John grew up keenly aware that blacks were exploited and lived in constant fear.
After high school, life for John was looking up. He had a job, a car and was enrolled in a program for young blacks considering college. But on an early June day in 1965 his life changed forever. John spotted a young white man talking to an older black women. The white man was a civil rights worker called by Martin Luther King Jr to the south for the SCOPE project. This was John Reynold’s introduction to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and its summer project called SCOPE-the Summer Community Organization and Political Education Project.
The SCOPE Project’s objective was to educate the black community about their rights and to register to vote as many as possible. Few in the black community knew when voter registration took place. Because of literacy tests and poll taxes, of the 11,000 eligible black voters in Pikes County fewer than 500 were registered.
The SCOPE volunteers came under constant intimidation and threats. Norma Danels, a white woman from Los Angeles decided to return home because of the threats. Another white volunteer, Elizabeth Shamburger from Alabama, risked becoming a target for the Ku Klux Klan. If it had been discovered that she was from Alabama she would have been seen as a traitor to the white race.
John’s first of many arrests came while traveling with two other SCOPE volunteers to a mass meeting in a rural church. On the way there they had an accident that disabled the car. The three decided to continue to the meeting. If anyone stayed with the car and it was discovered they were civil rights workers their life would be in danger. When they returned to the car the police were there. John was arrested for leaving the scene of an accident and went to jail. Although not expressly for civil disobedience the arrest was a result of his civil rights activities and became a badge of honor.
During the summer of 1965 the SCOPE project around the south registered thousands of new voters. They organized efforts to get blacks registered. They pressured the white establishment to make registration easier and worked within the courts to change the system. John’s heart and soul was committed to the movement and they trained local people to continue the effort after they left.
As the summer and the SCOPE project came to an end. John soon found himself in Atlanta, standing in the sanctuary of Ebenezer Baptist Church being interviewed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For the next several years he would be a foot soldier in the Civil Rights Movement and an eyewitness to history.
-Submitted by Roni Berttucci