In very early 1964, I launched a major SCEF-sponsored project: cracking the rigidly segregated, thoroughly repressive, Klan-infested northeastern North Carolina Black Belt -- containing some of the most poverty-stricken counties in the United States. This hard-core region had been isolated from the main currents of the Civil Rights Movement. Our SCEF Director -- Jim Dombrowski -- backed us to the hilt; as did the SCEF President, the Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth. Valuable support was provided by Ms. Ella J. Baker, a nationally known Black activist and Special Consultant to SCEF, who had herself grown up in that particular locale. The editor of the SCEF newspaper, The Southern Patriot, Ms. Anne Braden, provided valuable regional and national publicity for us. Up North, the SCEF fund-raiser, the Reverend William Howard Melish, was extremely helpful.
We started with Halifax County. Opposition was tough and violent. With hard work (among other things, at one point I spoke to over 120 community meetings in 90 days), boycotts, non-violent demonstrations, and litigation in Federal courts -- and, in time, political leverage -- we were increasingly successful. And then we moved across the Black Belt, county by county.