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Children of McComb
Contributing Organization
Pacifica Radio Archives (North Hollywood, California)
Pacifica Radio Archives
A talk with Tom Hayden and Robert Zellner, field secretaries of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), given on October 27, 1961, under the auspices of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), to the Durham Youth and College Chapters of the NAACP in Durham, North Carolina. Hayden and Zellner discuss their experiences at the student protest in McComb, Mississippi, earlier that month. The students protested because fifteen-year-old Brenda Travis, a McComb student, was sent to reform school after she was arrested for requesting service at a Greyhound Bus lunch counter. More than 100 of her schoolmates had to leave their homes and go to school elsewhere because they demonstrated on her behalf. In the talk, Zellner, the only white person marching, describes his participation in the protest, during which he was brutally beaten and arrested. Hayden relates the voter registration efforts of Bob Moses, director of SNCC's Mississippi project, in the Delta region of the state, and violence against African American activists in Pike and Amite counties, including the murder of Herbert Lee, a farmer and NAACP member. Hayden also discusses his own experiences as a writer trying to investigate the McComb student protest. Although the McComb movement, historian Charles M. Payne has written, has been viewed as a defeat, SNCC organizers learned from the movement how receptive young people were to their efforts. The Mississippi movement would be built largely around these home-grown organizers, Payne concluded. Historian John Dittmer noted that the events in McComb also taught SNCC that Simply attempting to register [voters] could bring on the wrath of the mob, a lesson it applied elsewhere in the Mississippi. An introduction to the broadcast by Elsa Knight Thompson tells the story of the provenance of this recording. Hayden, a former editor of a college daily in Michigan, had become acquainted with Pacifica Radio station KPFA in Berkeley during a visit to the Bay Area in 1960. He sent the recording of this talk to KPFA, knowing it was one of the few news outlets that would find it important to share with its audience. For information on the McComb movement, see Charles M. Payne, I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995) and John Dittmer, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1994).
Social Issues
Race and Ethnicity
Public Affairs
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (U.S.); McComb (Miss.); Southern Christian Leadership Conference; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Hayden, Tom; Zellner, Bob; African Americans--Civil rights--History
Hayden, Tom, Speaker
Zellner, Robert, Speaker
Thompson, Elsa Knight, Interviewer
Media type
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Chicago: “Children of McComb,” 1962-02-12, Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 18, 2018,
MLA: “Children of McComb.” 1962-02-12. Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 18, 2018. <>.
APA: Children of McComb. Boston, MA: Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from