In 1965, thirteen students from area colleges participated in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)’s Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) project, a civil rights initiative announced by Martin Luther King in April of that year. The goals of the project were political education and registering African Americans to vote in different locations throughout the south. The group was assigned to Williamston, NC, after attending training sessions in Atlanta, GA. Participating in the student-led group was Amherst professor Hugh Hawkins. Recognizing the significance of the experience, Professor Hawkins saved his letters and documents from his summer with the SCOPE project.

We in the archives are fortunate to have received Professor Hawkins’s papers, containing these notes and letters, as well as printed material from SCOPE, newspaper clippings, and audiotapes. These materials give first-hand insight into a turbulent and heroic time in the nation’s history.

The letters contain descriptions of civil rights leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Hosea Williams, and Sara E. Small. Dr. King gave a talk at the Atlanta training sessions for SCOPE volunteers on June 15, 1965.

A poster for a talk given by Dr. King that Professor Hawkins attended during training sessions in Atlanta.

Professor Hawkins described the speech that night in a letter to Walter Richard.

“We hurried back to hear Dr. King. His 20 min. address was slow starting (perhaps he was put off his pace by Bayard Rustin’s introduction which emphasized historical forces and ideas over any one man), but soon was as rousing as ever—used biblical quotations effectively and got lots of interruptions by applause. Then he had a question period, something very rare for him. He did remarkably well here—far closer to JFK’s style than LBJ’s, and he managed to take a fairly radical stance and gave encouragement to the more pacifistic students here.”
A pamphlet for the SCOPE program

A map of SCOPE areas of interest

On the Amherst campus, Professor Hawkins was active in establishing Black Studies as an academic department, and organizing an exchange program with black colleges. He was also co-chair (with a student, Harold Wade, Jr.), of the Black and White Action Committee. The History and American Studies professor retired from Amherst in 2000 and currently resides in Plainfield, MA.

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