Interviewee: Jean Chalmers
Interviewer: Brian Ward
Date: March 15, 2003
W: This is Brian Ward for the University of Florida Southern Regional Council oral
history project. It's an interview with Jean Chalmers in Gainesville, Florida, on
March 15, 2003. Jean, I was just wondering if we perhaps should start at the end
I know you're still involved with the Southern Regional Council but towards
the end of the period that I'm interested in, which is the time when you actually
became president. I wonder if you could just explain the circumstances whereby
you were approached to take on that position. Was it an election? What
motivated you to take on that burden?
C: A nominating committee searched me out and asked me. I was very involved in
the Council and was going up to Atlanta every month, because I have family in
Atlanta, so it seemed natural that I could do this function and see my family at
the same time. It came at a very propitious time for me. Lottie Shackleford had
been president for a long, long time. She stayed on, way past the usual term-
limits, because we had been without a director for quite a while when Steve
Suitts quit and we were interviewing and finally hired Wendy Johnson. Lottie
stayed on for a little while after Wendy Johnson came, to get that squared away.
When she reached the point where she thought it had stabilized, she said, now
I'm ready to step down, go find a new president, and the nominating committee
asked me if I would take over.
W: What year was that?
C: I don't remember. I'd just have to go back and look at the documents and let you
W: How long is the term of office?
C: Three years, but I think that I volunteered to be president for two years. I know I
didn't want to serve the whole term as president. I really don't approve of long
presidencies in an organization. I think if an organization can't change its
president with fairly regular schedule, then there's something wrong.
W: When you assumed the presidency, what would you say were the most pressing
issues that the Council faced?
C: We were being evicted.
W: What were your premises? Where were you?
C: We were in a building that was being renovated for the Olympics. It was about to
become a very expensive hotel and they wanted everyone out. We got our
eviction notice and I worked very, very hard locating offices, negotiating the
contracts. Fortunately, I'm a realtor, so I understood all the fine print, and got
everybody moved. I was very intimately involved in that and we had to make
some decisions. We've been around for a long time and we've always paid rent.
Should we own? So, we looked at all the possibilities of owning versus rental.
Should we move to a less expensive part of town? Before we moved into the
fancy building that became a luxury hotel, we'd been in a kind of bad part of
town. We felt that was fine, that was our image, we were poor folk. The real
question was, do we go back to the bad part of town, the low-rent district, or do
we try to stay in the more downtown commercial [area], or do we go to the
suburbs where you can get nice office-space really cheap? So we had all of
these kind of decisions to make.
W: What line won the day in the end?
C: To stay downtown, but in a commercially busy, viable, safe place. We were also
a little bit concerned about our staff.
W: And that was rented accommodation?
C: Yes, we rented, and we're still renting, a place on Carnegie, which is just down
the street from Macy's in downtown Atlanta.
W: All right. Aside from actually providing a roof over the organization's head, what
programmatically were the things that were most pressing or the things that
people were excited about?
C: Well, two interesting things happened. During the interim between Steve Suitts
and Wendy Johnson, when we were rudderless, we told the program directors
that their job existed if they could raise the money to do it. They were just on
their own. You go out and find grants and write grants and find the money. At
that time, there was quite a bit of government money around for education. We
had several education research programs where we affiliated with the Atlanta
school system, for instance. Our program directors approached the government
and wrote government grants to do this. We had always stayed away from
government money. We wanted very much to be independent of any
government, not only because we didn't completely trust government, but we
didn't want to have that image at all. We liked our independence very much.
So, this was a big break for us to suddenly start accepting government money.
But, with that money, we did a lot of research into middle-schools. We
determined that middle-school is where racial attitudes are really set and that, if
we could get in and assure a good middle-school education and good values,
that we could change society. We put together a program called Doing Better in
the Middle-Schools. [We] identified innovative programs across the country that
were achieving good results, brought them together with other middle- school
principals, [had] conferences, [and] lots of dialogue back and forth. Then [came]
Clinton's volunteer program [AmeriCorps]. They asked us to administer [training
for] that program. We became a coordinating agency for that program. That was
really nationwide and then they broke it up and we had part of the nation and
some other agency had the rest. That just faded away bit by bit, and certainly
when the Republicans came into play, then, it was completely gone. We really
lost all of our education money and that left us with the major program of
redistricting and getting voter-turnout. That has always been a big item for the
Southern Regional Council, and that was the mainstay.
W: I want to return to that, because obviously that links back to the Voter Education
Project in the sixties as well. Just thinking about organizationally, when you start
allowing or instructing your program directors to go and raise their own money,
was that a radical departure as well for the SRC? Was the choice of which sorts
of programs to pursue and which funds to pursue much more centrally
determined prior to that?
C: Oh, yes. Steve Suitts, who of course had been with us for many, many years,
was a very strong director. He was particularly strong in grant-writing and grant-
getting. He knew everybody in all of the foundations and really knew how to get
money out of them for his projects. He controlled that relationship. He had very,
very good program directors. The agency has always been quite egalitarian [and]
the hierarchy is never strongly felt within the organization. They were used to
having quite a bit of autonomy, but Steve always went out and raised the money
for them, so that was really quite a departure for them. We had no option. Either
they get the money or we don't have money.
W: How would you characterize the relationship between the executive directors of
the assertive action and the various presidents, including yourself? How did that
actually work on a day-to-day or an administrative basis?
C: It changed with the two directors. I think Steve Suitts spent a lot of time with
board members on a personal level and a programmatic level and would consult
with them and chat with them, regularly. Whenever I'd pass through Atlanta
traveling hither-and-yon, I would always call him, because it just gave us an
opportunity to talk about things. Wendy really didn't function at that level. When I
was president, she would consult me on major things going on, but she spent
much, much less time talking with her board members and got us less
information in a less timely way. That didn't bother me very much because I'm
very results-oriented. If we got good results, I don't care if I was consulted once
or ten times. But some of the board members really did not like not being
regularly consulted. But in some things, she just said, help, I need help. We had
one unfortunate event with one of our employees, and unfortunately our
agreement says that I can't tell you anything about it, but it was very, very
complex and very difficult and there was quite a bit of money involved. She just
pretty much let me take over and I negotiated it out and won the day. She was
there, but I took the lead. The other time she had to let go, two people. They
were administrative assistant-type people that were beloved. We all liked them
very much and they'd been with the organization a long time, but we simply
couldn't afford them and didn't need them. She asked me, at that point, if I
wouldn't sit in with her on this dismissal, so I came up and did that.
W: Talking about people who had actually been with the organization a long time,
how many of those folks had actually come out of a civil rights background from
the mid- through late 1960s? How many people were still around and who were
C: When I went on the board in the 1980s, they were all out of the civil rights
movement. A few from labor may not have been civil rights, in fact, labor was not
civil rights as we know, but they were all old civil rights people, plus some labor.
Just very, very gradually one old civil rights worker after the other [would leave].
Frankly, a lot of them died, became ill, or retired. Then we started getting in
younger, more professional people, people that were directors of their programs,
W: I want to ask how that change in personnel may have affected the way in which
the SRC thought of itself and went up about its business, but before I get to that,
who on the board were sort of powers in the land, if you like, when you first came
up in the 1980s?
C: Well, certainly Paul Gaston was, and Lottie Shackleford, always. Tony
Harrison from [Washington] was very strong.
W: Did they have particular approaches that were recognizable in terms of, were
there things that Gaston versus Harrison were particularly keen to push, that
perhaps Shackleford wasn't? How would you characterize the interests they had,
and, to some extent, the way in which they went about their business?
C: Tony was very, very political. He never sat at the board-table, [but] he always sat
in a chair behind the wall and the rest of us would be at the board. He read the
New York Times and the Wall Street Journal during the meetings, but if we were
talking about politics, everyone would turn, well, Tony, tell us. Tony was in
Washington with his finger on every pulse and knew what was going on. He also
worked very closely with union people, because they were supporting a lot of his
individual research. He was also doing some individual research where
foundations were funneling money through us to him. We had sort of a serious
time with that when our auditors said that was not a very good thing to do and we
should not do it. We told Tony that we could no longer funnel money through our
organization and we started demanding monthly reports from him. He always
worked in a very laissez-faire way and he really didn't like being asked for
monthly reports and really didn't like the idea that we weren't [going to funnel
money to him]. It was the end of the good ol' boy network. The civil rights
movement had the good ol' boy network, and all of a sudden, here were these
women asking for certain protocols that had never been required.
W: Do you think the fact that it was women asking for these things made any
C: Who knows. I really can't say that. I know a lot of the women involved thought
there was a lot of sexism there, but I never felt it, myself. It's really hard to guess.
Lorna Borg was a board member then, a very bright woman. She's one of our
MacArthur geniuses [the MacArthur so-called "genius" grant funds artists and
scholars for long-term sustained work]. We had two of them on the board,
Sophie Bracey Harris and Lorna Borg. Lorna, fascinating woman, had been a
nun. [She] left the order and started a rural development agency in Louisiana
working with small farmers, very concerned about housing. Lorna had a really
good financial mind and her agency worked with lots of foundations. It was really
Lorna, as chair of the finance committee, that said, oh, we cannot be doing this.
Indeed, our whole method of bookkeeping changed. I think some of the old-
timers really didn't like the kind of changes we were making, because we were
being very persnickety. But it was at the same time that foundations were getting
very, very fussy and very bureaucratic. We were having to be very careful that
we kept apolitical, for not-for-profit positions, and we just couldn't wheel-and-deal
the way we used to.
W: Do you think people like Harrison had come up in a different world [and] different
C: Right, and Paul too. People like Paul, Tony, and John Griffin and some of the
grand old men of that organization firmly believed, we're doing good work, we're
people of good- will, and we are dead-honest, why did we want to burden
ourselves with all this bureaucracy and red-tape? There was a real, little
division, there. Lottie thought we were going too far with the red-tape too, but I
think she's come around. She was more on the Paul Gaston side.
W: What about personal qualities that Gaston, Shackleford, and Harrison brought to
the table just in terms of human beings of conviction?
C: Well, Gaston is Southern aristocracy. The Southern aristocratic civil rights worker
is just a gem. He came in with all the deep-felt dignity [and] that Quaker
background. There was just an awful lot of integrity and intelligence, and [he]
speaks beautifully. He gave some real class to [the organization]. He'd been
president, too. Lottie was like Tony, [she] really had her ear to the political. At
that time, we were very much concerned with our national and regional image. It
was still in the 1980s [and] the press still looked upon us, to some degree, as the
authority on things to do with civil rights and racism. They would call us and we
would call them and we could get their attention. We still had the Council of 120
people and when we had annual meetings, representatives of the Council would
come. The Council was made up of old civil rights folks and southerners of good-
will who had been through the battles with us. We were a very different kind of
W: About what time did you stop getting the phone-calls? Was there a moment or a
time when suddenly the Southern Regional Council wasn't the first port-of-call for
any journalist looking to get statistics on some form of the racial situation in the
C: Yeah, I think by the 1990s we were no longer there. It was my feeling that we
were fading out. By the time Wendy came on, we were really at a soul-searching
position. We had lost so much visibility in the nation as the spokespeople or the
spokes-organization for the civil rights movement. I think we were probably
beyond recapturing that visibility. We weren't slick at TV, we weren't slick on the
Internet, we weren't hep. We were sort of doing it in the old-fashioned, scholarly
kind of a way.
W: Do you think that was the problem, it's a presentational problem? A matter of
image, as opposed to substance?
C: Absolutely. If you look at the People for the American Way, they're everywhere,
you just see them and hear them. We used to be that kind of an organization.
We used to be to civil rights and racism as Common Cause was to government.
We've lost that image. Paul Gaston still weeps that we've lost it and he still
hopes that we can recapture it. Wendy's position was, we were not postured to
recapture it. We didn't have the depth, the money, the knowledge, and we didn't
have funding-sources that would do it, and perhaps that wasn't necessary.
Perhaps there were other needs out there in the community, [so] we got a
strategic-planner in. We got this guy who came in from California and led us
through strategic-planning sessions as a board. That was quite interesting. We
ended up saying, yes, we're going to need to do a multi-cultural outlook. So, then
we grappled for years, what is multi-culturalism, what role does the Southern
Regional Council have in multi-culturalism, and who else is doing it? Well, a lot of
other organizations were doing it. Even the Southern Poverty Law Center had
some multi-cultural stuff going on. It was very hard for us to find a niche where
we could do something special. By putting the energy of the organization into
trying to find a path for multi-culturalism, we doubly lost our ability to be the
highly visible spokesmen against racism and civil rights. We've become much
more a community-based organization now, much more Georgia-based. A lot of
our work is in Georgia, [because] we just don't have the money to send people
off and put them up in hotels and such. Most of the work we are doing is
exportable. It has the feeling of being pilot-programs.
W: During your time in the SRC, how has the relationship between the Atlanta office
and the various regional and state, and even more local than that, Councils on
Human Relations, how has that changed?
C: It doesn't exist. By the time I got on the Council in 1985, it didn't exist anymore.
What happened [was,] the old Human Relations Councils, the branches that
were formed in the 1960s, so many cities started their own Human Relations
Council, [so] it was just co-opted. The whole local structure and field structure
just atrophied over time.
W: And that was pretty much gone by the mid-1980s?
C: Yes. We never set up the apparatus you need for field organizations and branch
organizations, as the NAACP has done, for instance. And again, that takes
money. We never had that endowment. If we'd had a year's endowment [where]
we could take a year off and start fund-raising to build branches, then we could
have done that.
W: But, of course, one could argue that one of the recurring themes in the history of
the Southern Regional Council is it's always been strapped for cash at some
C: Always, and a lot of the members of the Council were very poor. We had field-
hands. When I was first on the board, we had women who were house-cleaners
serving on the board [and] people who'd been working the fields picking cotton
were sitting on the board. We had poor folks.
W: In some ways, that's really interesting, when you consider some of the criticisms
or at least just observations about the SRC in its first fifteen, twenty, thirty years.
W: That it was overwhelming white and overwhelmingly white male with some very
distinguished African-Americans, male and female, and very distinguished white
women involved with the organization. But, in a way, wouldn't you say that's
some sort of measure of the success of the organization that that had changed?
C: Yes, and the organization used to be able to raise enough money to pay for poor
people to come to board meetings. [For] our Council meetings, we would often
pay to put people up in hotels, so that income wouldn't determine your
involvement in the Southern Regional Council. But we seem to be unable to
raise that kind of discretionary money so we can bring poor people into the
meeting. Now, foundations are saying, we want every board member to
contribute, how much money did your board raise? Well, in the beginning,
foundations never asked how much money our board was raising. The Ford
Foundation would give us money because we were dirt-poor. People on the
board have no money, none at all.
W: Tell me a little about this Council of 120.
C: Oh, that's the Southern Regional Council. That was the activists, the thinkers,
and people of influence that were willing to come out front. That was Virginia
Durr and all the grand ol' people, Brandy Ayers.
W: By the time you were conspicuously involved with the SRC, how would you
characterize the composition of that Council? It seems as though it's becoming
increasingly diverse, but how far has that diversity progressed? I'm thinking,
again, about how you begin to deal with the issues of greater multi-culturalism,
as well as just African-American and white.
C: Well, the participation from Council members became less and less and less and
less. Number one, when we got to the point where we couldn't pay for them to
come to meetings anymore, they just didn't come. Only the wealthy came. We
lost all the poor folks from the Council. Then, some of the grand old people of
the Council just got too old to come to meetings. Some of them died. This is one
thing we did during my presidency, we rewrote the by-laws and changed from
being the Southern Regional Council of 120 to being an organization called the
Southern Regional Council with an executive board. If you want to be a member,
you're just like Friends of [the Council], you don't have a vote in the organization,
anymore. We changed the organization to reflect what was happening.
W: I wonder if we could back up just a little bit now, you know, we started with you
already in place. Do you remember when you first became aware of the
Southern Regional Council in any way, shape or form?
C: Well, I knew I was coming to the South in 1958. David [Chalmers, her husband,
professor of history emeritus at University of Florida] said, come with me and
you'll have your finger on the pulse of change. We arrived down here, newlywed,
December 31, 1958. I was just appalled. I couldn't believe it. I'd never lived in a
W: Say a little bit about your own background.
C: Well, I'm a Canadian from the West. I knew very few African-Americans, but our
hired girl married an African-American and no one thought much of it, it didn't
make much difference one way or the other. Then I lived in London and I was
with the colonials over there. In fact, I dated a Zulu guy for quite a while over
there. There was never any feeling if you're part of the colonial crowd. Then I
moved to New York, where again, there was no feeling of this at all. To come
down to Gainesville was unbelievable. I'll never forget one day out in front of
Rice's Hardware on Second Avenue. It was raining really hard and there was an
old black couple approaching me on the sidewalk, I was a young woman, twenty-
five years old or something, they stepped off the sidewalk into the gutters full of
water so I could pass by. I was just appalled. Maybe, it was then, that I said to
David, I've got to do something, I can't not do anything. He said, well, the
Southern Regional Council has a group called the Human Rights Council and
they meet at the Negro library on the first Sunday of every month; let's go. This
was probably the first Sunday in February in 1959. The Negro library was the
most pathetic little place in the middle of the black ghetto. All the books either
had the covers missing or they were crayoned or had pages torn out. All the
rejects from the white library were sent over to the Negro library, as it was called.
So we would meet there. When I look back upon it, in many ways it was a racist
organization, too. What it was [was] the black people would tell the white people
what their problems were and then the white people would go out and solve their
problems. It'd be, our garbage isn't picked up. Well, we'll see to that, and we'd
go down and say, you pick up the garbage. We don't have sewer- and water-
lines in our neighborhood. Well, we'll see to that. We'd go down and make sure
that those poor black people got water. It was still very, very racist, but we didn't
see it as that at all.
W: What sort of people were at these meetings with you?
C: The black people were teachers and social workers, almost exclusively. Edgar
Cosby, the dentist was there, and Cullen Banks, the doctor, was there, but all
the other black people were teachers and social workers. The white people were
all university people, no local people at all.
W: Were many of those non-Southerners who'd come to Gainesville, from outside
C: Yes, I don't recall a Southerner in there, so we were really trouble-makers. We
met almost without incident. One time, we had a meeting called and the police
got in touch with us and said that they got rumors that the Klan was going to
come and break up our meeting and wouldn't we please come and meet in the
police station. The police station [had] the city court there and the city jail there. It
was the police station there, the court was up on the top floor, and the jail was
down on the bottom floor. So, we had our council meeting up in the courtroom so
they could protect us from the Ku Klux Klan. I don't know if the Klan ever came
to town or not. One of the lovely things about us meeting at the Negro library
[was that,] when I was the mayor of Gainesville, I had the opportunity to name
the old Negro library the Rosa B. Williams Recreation Center. Rosa B. Williams
was a poor black woman. I erred when I said they were all teachers and social
workers because then, there was Rosa.
W: She had a very different background?
C: Oh yes, she was a poor girl from the woods out [near Starke]. She spoke with
such a stutter, you could almost not understand her. She was the housemaid for
the Sterretts. The Sterretts were music teachers at the university and they
came and brought Rosa. For some reason, I just hit it off with Rosa. She was
pretty hard to understand, but I thought she was bright and I got to know her. We
used to have covered-dish dinners two or three times a year in the Council and
Rosa would always be on the dinner committee. At the meetings, she wouldn't
come and sit with us, she'd stay at the kitchen door and listen to what was going
on. I remember, I said, Rosa, what if everyone brings meat or what if everyone
brings a salad? She said, when you're doing the Lord's work, he distributes
things evenly. Now, have you ever been to a Southern covered-dish dinner
where it was ill-distributed?
W: So, you were sold.
C: I was sold. We were doing the Lord's work, because every meal we had was
perfect distribution of food.
W: Was there a point at which some local whites began to get involved at any level?
C: Not all of Gainesville whites. The Southern Regional Council group was very
male- dominated, the men were always in charge of it, so some of the women in
the Council said that they would feel better if they could meet as women. [They
said] they'd feel more free to talk and make some decisions. We formed
something called the Gainesville Women for Equal Rights, and Rosa was one of
the founders of that, too. When we got Rosa away from the male-dominated
Southern Regional Council, she became a great spokesperson. Her stutter
became much, much less and she really became a very, very active and highly
respected civil rights worker.
W: And GWER [Gainesville Women for Equal Rights] was wholly integrated?
W: It was pretty 50/50?
C: GWER was pretty 50/50.
W: Whereas the Southern Regional Council group had been?
C: Well, no, I think it was pretty close to 50/50 too, but a lot of the women then
weren't so active in the Southern Regional Council as they were in GWER.
GWER just became much, much more active and much more aggressive and
assertive and in your face.
W: What was the opinion of the Southern Regional Council group of what the
women in GWER were doing?
C: I think they were supportive of us. Then the city of Gainesville formed a Human
Rights Council and that's the first time local white people got involved.
W: Right, and that was after the Civil Rights' Act of 1964?
W: After the Voting Rights Act in 1965?
C: Yeah. M. M. Parrish from Parrish Real Estate was the member of the first
[Gainesville] Human Relations Council. He was not necessarily in favor of
integration, but very much in favor of justice and equal treatment. [He] felt very
strongly that black people were not getting a fair deal anywhere, in health-care,
in education, or anything. He was willing to work to make sure they got a fair
W: Let me take a little detour into Gainesville civil rights; I think it's worthwhile. What
were the students doing? Were any of the students in the least bit interested in
the Southern Regional Council or GWER?
C: No, they had their own organizations. Leaders from the Southern Regional
Council and leaders from GWER were consultants and faculty advisors on [the
Student Group for Equal Rights (SGER)]. [The students also] had their SNCC
[Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee] and their CORE [Congress of
Racial Equality]. We would support each other. When we had marches on, we
would coordinate our marches with them and such, so there was a lot of
coordination. We partied together a lot.
W: Given that it seemed to be racially integrated and it seems as though there were
men and women, although the women had to hive off and do their own thing, it
seems like it's generationally circumscribed as well, in that it's people of their
mid-twenties and upwards, rather than people in their teens to mid-twenties.
W: What about formal or informal contact with the Southern Regional Council
C: I don't recall anyone from Atlanta coming down for any of our meetings. We
would get articles and all the stuff from them and we would talk about what
they're doing, and I guess we sent reports to them. I'm sure we did.
W: Were you required to pay dues as an affiliate?
C: No, we were just there. I remember, at the time, hearing that the director of the
Southern Regional Council, and this may well be Tony Dunbar's father...
C: .when he came and toured the Human Relations Councils throughout the
area, they didn't have enough money for him to stay in a hotel. He had a
sleeping bag in the back of his car.
W: So, you didn't get to see Dunbar while he was executive director?
W: How do we get, from you in Gainesville, with a slightly marginalized bit of the
SRC family, to you ending up as president and joining the board? How much
contact did you have during the 1960s and 1970s with the SRC?
C: I became president of GWER, Gainesville Women for Equal Rights, and we
remained active throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s. We used SRC's
research and papers and what they did quite a bit. I was not a member of the
120, not a member of the Council, but we called on them for help and
information. They were a resource to the local organization. I'm trying to think
when I did my last protest under GWER. It might have been in the late 1970s,
actually, [that] was the last grandstand for GWER. It was Paul Gaston who called
and said, we would like you on the board, can you come up? So, for about five to
eight years, I wasn't doing anything with the Southern Regional Council at all, not
even keeping track of what they were doing.
W: Is that probably a function of the cadence of your own life, where things like
family intervened, or was there a sense then that the SRC was not as important
in some ways in these issues as it had been, previously?
C: Well, I went off into a different area. During the 1960s and 1970s, I'd been very
involved in welfare, and so, used the SRC a lot then. I was with the Mothers for
Welfare Rights and all of those organizations. SRC was doing a lot of research
into poverty, so that was useful for me. Then I changed and zeroed in on health-
care and mental health-care. [I] became more of a number-cruncher and a
researcher and got out of the streets and didn't go up to Tallahassee so much.
Then I started running political campaigns. Maybe a bit in some of my speech-
writing for candidates, I might rely on them a bit. [I] relied mainly on Jimmy
Carter's white papers. When I was running [a] state-wide campaign here, I just
relied heavily on Jimmy Carter, who I think, he was one of the 120. He's always
been on the fringes of the Southern Regional Council, a friend of [the Council].
W: Lots of people who I've spoken to have talked about how valuable the SRC was
as a resource. Can you put a little bit more flesh on the bones of the
contributions, if you have to characterize the SRC, [that the SRC] made to many,
many groups who had varying degrees of formal affiliation with any SRC
C: I think of one little project that SRC had on segregation academies. They did
some very good research on who's going there and what's happening and what
happens if you're black and you apply and this sort of thing. In the public-
education sphere, when we were trying to have free kindergartens, for instance,
we would use some of this type of research. [We'd say] look at these private
academies [that] are offering kindergarten. They are segregated. They are not
available no matter what they say and what you say, it doesn't exist. You, Mr.
School Board man, you've got to provide that, if we're going to have equality in
education. That's just one instance where I can remember [using them]. [It's one]
small elegant study they did where I could throw the data on the desk and say,
here are the figures; this is what's happening.
W: And presumably you would never have the resources to do the collecting of that
sort of information.
C: No. The Southern Regional Council had a very good reputation that their
research was good and valid.
W: Would you be proactive in a sense of phoning up Atlanta, saying, what have you
got on this issue [and] what have you got on that issue, or would you be, in a
way, more reactive, [saying] the SRC has done a good study on this, it's in our
library, or it was in New South [SRC periodical] or whatever?
C: I think reactive, but I always worked with a group and there may well have been
other people in the group that [were proactive]. During the civil rights movement,
I was out front and we had other women who did a lot of research. I did some
writing, but not as much as others.
W: We put something on hold that I wanted to come back and talk to you about,
which is about voter education or voting rights, redistricting, and those sorts of
issues. Had that been a concern in Florida or in Gainesville, or was that
C: Big concern, big concern, and our efforts were there. We used the Voter
Education Project for our model.
[End of side Al]
W: We were talking a little bit about how you'd followed some of the models and
precedents of the Voter Education Project in the 1960s when you were dealing
with issues specific to Gainesville and Florida. Were there any other SRC
programs that you found inspirational as models?
C: Yes. We certainly looked at the Hunger Task Force that SRC had, at the time we
were rewriting the health and human relations laws for the state of Florida. It
used to be called the Florida Welfare Department and several of the legislators
decided that they wanted to modernize it and update it. The Gainesville Women
for Equal Rights became a lobbying group. We, with our rubber-tong sandals and
our shirt-waist dresses, would get in cars. I remember our briefcase was a Pabst
Blue Ribbon beer box that we had all our file-folders in. We took data from the
hunger project to Tallahassee with us when we were arguing for certain
programs. We were arguing for commodity programs, to up the welfare
payments, and on and on and on. We got to the point where, before that
committee would meet, we would get calls from them, from committee members,
asking us what we would think of this and what we would think of that, and
asking us if we would draft some certain language for different things in the
health and rehabilitation legislation for the state of Florida. It was really good to
have the data from the Southern Regional Council there. The Southern Regional
Council was very visible then, too. You'd read about it in the newspaper. You
would read magazines about it. So, we were always aware that it was a
resource for our kind of thing to do.
W: Was there a Florida Council on Human Relations?
W: There was never one?
C: No, it was just the Atlanta group. The governor set up a [state] Council of Human
Relations for awhile, but I don't think it ever did very much. Then the SRC got
into the Federation of Southern Cooperatives [and] did a lot of work on rural
problems. We became very involved with the farm workers. Again, these things
were tracked in small communities. I think the small communities looked at
regional organizations who had access to the press and to the intelligentsia and
then we would come in with the local programs and the local pressure.
W: I see how that would work. As you say, this is a period where the Southern
Regional Council has a relatively high-profile through the 1960s and the early
1970s. Did you know any of that next generation after Les Dunbar of Southern
Regional Council presidents and directors, people like George Esser and people
like that? Were you aware of their work? Paul Anthony and ...
C: Not particularly. I just sort of knew who their names were, but never really knew
them that much.
W: Was there any point, thinking more locally than perhaps Southern Regional
Council-wide, where you began to notice Southern whites taking a more
conspicuous role in the sorts of things you're doing with Florida re-districting and
C: Yes. I think when we got the schools integrated, we got some Southerners really
involved in the schools. We had a very courageous school board here in
Gainesville. Dr. Ben Samuels was a Southern boy, I think [he was from]
Mississippi, but he was a dentist in town, [and] Dr. Bill Enneking, and I don't
know where he was from. Here were two very prominent men that served on the
school board right at the time of integration [and] they took some pretty
courageous stands. I can remember groups of us meeting with them in secret
where they would say, don't ever let anyone know we met with you guys, but
we've got to talk about some things.
W: One of the things that in the historical literature is often dwelled upon is the
tensions that came in the late 1960s and the early 1970s with the rise of Black
Power. I'm just wondering how you felt they played out among a constituency of
white liberals like yourself. Were there points of tension and points of friction?
C: Oh yes, sure. In this community there was Carol Thomas and the Black Jack
Dawkins and the Black Power Gang, and then there was Reverend Wright.
Reverend Wright was the head of the NAACP and the minister at Mount Carmel.
He was more for, let's get registered; let's get voting. His daughter was one of
the ones that desegregated Gainesville High School. Carol was out there having
riots in the streets and doing in-your-face stuff, and it just drove Tom Wright
crazy. He felt, she's undoing everything [he was] trying to do. So, there was a
real split there. I think, in many ways, the white people in the civil rights
movement were more supportive of the radicals than the black Southerners that
were really more conservative.
W: On what grounds? How would you explain that sensitivity?
C: We had nothing to fear, they did. Absolutely plain. They were just afraid that
there was going to be a tremendous backlash if the civil rights activists got too
active and too belligerent, and if there's a backlash, guess who gets it.
W: Right. In terms of organizations like GWER, for example, were there tensions
between black and white women about, not necessarily end-goals, but also
techniques and strategies and priorities?
C: Not between the black and white women, but between the black and black
women. It was all class. When we voted in our first non-college educated woman
as president of GWER a lot of the other women were really resentful. They felt
that this was not presidential material. We were all amazed because, of course,
we were all being very egalitarian.
W: Right, but there was no particular agreements about the directions that you were
heading, things like poverty issues or voting rights issues?
C: No. In fact, when we went up to Tallahassee, we would go out black and white
together. I remember that, because passing through Perry, if a black person was
driving, the white people would get down on the floorboards, and if a white
person was driving, the black people would get down on the floorboards,
because we didn't want to go through Perry in an integrated car.
W: How receptive was the state government in Tallahassee to the sorts of things
you brought to the table?
C: This was a small committee [Tallahassee], and very, very bright.
W: Who were the players?
C: I wish I could remember their names, but I can't. One woman had been president
of the League of Women Voters, so she was fairly liberal, fairly thoughtful, well-
educated and well-traveled. There was a physician on the committee who was
really concerned about public-health issues, poverty, and health. They were just
determined that they were going to pull us, kicking and screaming, out of the
welfare department into something in health and rehabilitation services. That's
W: Yes. Thinking about progressivism and liberalism and all these phrases that are
difficult to define in change over time, do you think that there were any particular
limitations to the way in which white liberals in the South conceptualized the race
problem? I'm thinking whether this was played out in the Southern Regional
Council's history. Do you think there were finite limits to the imaginations of the
white liberals in the 1960s that may or may not still be a problem in the 1980s
C: Well, in the 1960s, I look back on it, [it was] so simplistic. We can solve all the
problems if we'd just all intermarry and we'd all act white and it would be fine.
W: Do you think that may lack a certain something?
C: We were just all terribly racist. To fight racism, we were perfectly willing to
forsake African-American culture. It didn't dawn on us that this was really an
W: Would that position have been somewhat corrected by the events of the late
1960s in a way where there's such a passion among African-Americans for
expressing their pride in their culture?
C: Sure, absolutely. That's the only thing that made we white liberals say, oh,
maybe there's a culture there worth fighting for and worth saving. When they
closed down Lincoln High School and integrated Gainesville High School, Lincoln
High School had been the black high school, Lincoln parents and teachers and
students marched and protested against closing it down. By then, we, white
liberals, marched with them because we had come to realize there are black
cultural institutions that we've got to fight to preserve, and just across the board
integration in everything, is not fair.
W: That's interesting. You mentioned something very thought-provoking about the
change when the SRC suddenly starts thinking about taking government money.
When you think about the Southern Regional Council in the 1940s, 1950s, and
1960s as having that wariness about federal government, which is a Southern
trait, do you think that has really changed that much? Do you think the sort of
people at the heart of the Southern Regional Council in the 1980s and 1990s,
when you became more involved, was there still residue of that parochialism?
C: There still is, today. The council members really do not want government money.
They just feel that, and it's true, if you take $5 from a government board, you're
going to get $5 worth of advice and restrictions. I've been on both sides. Any
group that came to me when I was mayor and asked for some money, I'd always
say, think very, very seriously before you take taxpayer's money, because then
you're going to have taxpayers telling you what to do.
W: Sure, now of course that might be true as well, of farmers in Montana being
concerned about taking the government coin. Was there anything particularly
peccant about the Southern concern about the federal government that might be
a legacy of 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s attitudes?
C: No, I don't think that was it at all. I think the government has always been much
more to the right [politically] of the Southern Regional Council, and I think SRC
always felt that its left position in society could only be protected if we didn't allow
ourselves to be co-oped by the government. We didn't want to become the
research-arm of the government. A government trying to look liberal and
progressive would just love to have Southern Regional Council representing
them in the multi-racial community saying, "Look at all the good we're doing."
W: I guess, to play devil's advocate, that wouldn't have necessarily been the driving
motivation in the 1940s and 1950s for Southern Regional Council to distance
C: Well, Southern Regional Council wouldn't get government money anyhow, in the
1950s and 1960s. It never crossed anyone's mind.
W: But, of course, it was conceptualizing itself as an alternative to having federal
authority pushing a desegregation timetable and agenda in its early days. If you
can manage things in-house, then you don't need to have this imposed. I guess
I'm wondering how Southern it is. You're a Southerner, by default.
C: I'm the first president that was not born in the South.
W: I'm just wondering how Southern that organization really is.
C: It's pretty Southern. It's very, very different. The other statewide or regional
organizations that I've been involved in, as I was talking earlier, the Children's
Home Society Board, which is all the state of Florida and it's Southern, but it
didn't have that special Southernness. I don't know how I can explain it, but it's
just a different approach.
W: It's obviously hard to pin down, but is it to do with the manners of the people, the
way in which they interact, or is it more to do with the conceptualization of the
racial problems of the region?
C: I think the whole thinking, the whole approach, is a little bit different. Everything
unfolds and evolves at a different speed, and there are many different nuances.
You can look at so many societies that do this. I remember living in Israel and
seeing the way the Israeli community would address a problem versus the way
the Palestinians would address a problem. With the Israelis it was sort of, right,
here's a problem, we do ABCD, and let's get it on a schedule and budget it and
go. The Palestinians [were like], well here's a problem and you know, when do
you think it started and what would our grandfather do about this, and if we do
this, what happens in the village next door? I think Southerners are much, much
more like that. They're just really afraid of rapid decisions, going ahead, and [are]
really concerned about all the ramifications. I don't know if that comes from being
a victim. The Southerners were victimized for 100 years, so anything that seems
clear-cut may not be. They had a lot of clear-cut stuff that wasn't very clear-cut. I
think it is a different way of thinking and a different approach. Out of that slowly-
evolving thought process comes a certain elegance too, and I think that's where
you get the Southern manners and Southern elegance. Maybe the Southern love
of words and of literature comes from that slow, evolutionary thinking.
W: I guess the question then, for an outsider, was it ever frustrating that there were
sometimes things that you saw as clear-cut, either policy issues or moral issues,
that actually there were people who were wondering about minutiae and about
what their great-grandfathers might have thought about it? Was that sometimes
frustrating, and did you sympathize with the fact that for African-Americans that
could have been very, very frustrating?
C: No, I'm not sure. I think African-Americans think much the same as [whites]. I
think Southern thought is much more typical to the African-Americans that I dealt
with than the Northern thought. I'm so aware of it because, not only being
Canadian did I have a very different kind of thought-process, but I'm an A
personality, sort of [an] aggressive, assertive kind of person, anyhow. I've always
been very aware that I've really got to behave differently and act differently to
where I almost do it naturally, now.
W: People talk a lot about the disadvantages of this sort of "methodical" might be
the nicest way of putting their approach to problems. What are the advantages of
the Southern way of going about doing things in the social arena?
C: That's an interesting question. Maybe you get more consensus in the
community, in the group. Certainly, in the end, you don't have anyone wanting to
perform a coup. Maybe, it brings the group along. If I look at the Southern
Regional Council since the major division in the early days, I don't think there's
ever been a really divisive board. I think we've worried things to death, but at the
end of it all, we all have a consensus. I'd like us to be the high-visibility
spokesperson, [but] I don't argue too much a position. I tried to bring onto the
board a woman who I think is the best public-relations advertising visibility
person in the nation. She just lasted about four or five months; [it] just drove her
W: What was the general problem?
C: Well, she had all sorts of brilliant ideas of how to give us this high-visibility and
where to go and what to do, and this wasn't how Wendy operated, at all. Giving
Wendy her due, the money didn't come with it. You know, whatever you do,
takes money. The board just sort of didn't get on board. I think they all thought it
was a nice idea, but they'd have to chew it over and worry about it for a little
while. They're not as bad as Quakers.
W: Well, having looked at the 229 rolls of [SRC] microfilm, there's still a fair amount
of memoranda making incremental progress towards an end, which is a Quaker
trait, too. There are a couple of questions, now, that may seem random, but are
actually building upon things other people have said, in the past. When you are
thinking about the Southern Regional Council you've known, and maybe even
some local manifestations, would you have any generalizations about the role of
religion and religious affiliations that you think might stick as generalizations?
C: Well, it's always been very Christian, and generally, has had a minister, the wife
of a minister [involved]. The religion has always been very involved, as it is in the
civil rights movement. I think it was probably the 1980s before we had a Jewish
person on board that I know of. That was Ed Ellson, and he wasn't on board for
very long. Of course now we have an imam, but I'm sure that's the first Muslim.
W: Perhaps thinking back to your first major engagements with the organization, do
you think those people who stood up for civil rights, do you think that religion
played a major part in their motivations for doing so?
C: Yeah, I think religion played a major part in all motivation in the South. It's just so
W: The other question is about Southern Regional Council's ability to work in the
political arena with elected officials. How successfully do you think the SRC has
courted the people it needed to court in the South in positions of power?
C: I think we've done two things. We've been very successful in getting black
people elected through our re-districting, through our voter education, and
through helping with strategy and such. We had a very creative program where
we worked with black legislators teaching them how to read budgets, how to
prepare bills, how to analyze bills, how to present them, what to do, getting them
together to talk with each other and plan strategy together. It was very
successful, because when we first started getting black folks elected in numbers,
we didn't have anyone with any experience and it was just a real learning
program for them. Of course, the legislative bodies were just dying to see them
fall on their faces. [They were] not providing them with anything that they
W: When were these leadership programs in full swing?
C: In the 1980s. It maybe started in the late 1970s and [continuing] throughout the
1980s, and they were very, very good. As far as helping black, elected officials, I
think we've done a very fine job. Impact on other elected officials [have]
generally [been] through amicus curiae ["friend of the court"] briefs and saying, it
ain't true. We've generally had an adversarial relationships with the white elected
W: Have there been any exceptions to that generalization, folks who you would say
have been friends with the SRC, sympathetic to the SRC, and who you feel
you've been able to get a good hearing from and some response from?
C: Yes. In Florida, LeRoy Collins [Governor of Florida, 1954-1960] was just really
magnificent. SRC did have entire to him, and he, to SRC. Reubin Askew
[Governor of Florda, 1971-1979] to some extent, too. We were able to influence
those governors. I'm not sure in other states I could speak for.
W: Would these be more people who were kindred spirits and recognized what the
SRC were doing, or would there ever be formal affiliations as in these people
would be members?
C: No, not members. LeRoy Collins, of course, was a life member because we
made him so, but generally, it would be members of the SRC who would know
these people personally. We tried to get into our membership people who were
politically influential, so, we had this strain of wealthy, influential, political, old
South members that had access in the state houses.
W: The ungracious way of describing that is as "an old boy's network." The more
gracious way is to use a phrase, that has recurred many times in these
interviews, is that there's an "SRC extended family." Families come with a lot of
baggage as well as a lot of good things. How would you characterize the SRC as
a family of sorts?
C: The people that bought into the SRC agenda were quite a minority. As with any
minority group, you look at any minority religion, they all end up knowing each
other. It's always just amazing when you get a small group that believes
passionately in something, you can disburse them over thousands of miles and
they're still going to know about each other and keep track of each other. And a
lot of the period was with some danger. When you have family members in
danger in the battlefield, you hang close.
W: Just a few more bits and pieces, somewhat related to the discussion we had
about media or image and things like that. The Lillian Smith Awards, in some
ways that's sort of a flagship moment for the SRC. How intimately have you been
involved with defining the role that should play and how that should be
C: It's been absolutely continuous. There's been very little change. My role has
been to keep it the way it is and to not let it change. I had my husband chair of
the committee one year, that was one way to keep it from changing. For a couple
of years, I found the jurors and appointed them. Our policy was absolute hands-
off from the board. Members of the board could serve on the jury but the board
didn't have a say on who gets the award; it rests with the jury.
W: I sort of think about the publishing record for the SRC. There are obviously the
multitude of reports and pamphlets and such like, and then there's been a
succession of magazines and journals of varying size, format, and success.
Alongside things like the Lillian Smith Book Awards, these have been the way in
which people who wouldn't otherwise come into contact with the SRC and its
apparatus get in contact with that.
W: I'm just wondering, as you look back on the last fifteen or twenty years of your
close involvement with the SRC, and you look forward to the future, how do you
see these sorts of productions working to further the cause of the SRC?
C: Well, we obviously need a stronger vehicle behind these productions. With the
Lillian Smith Book Awards, we're affiliating now with the University of Georgia.
Their library is going to take over that function. It will be the Southern Regional
Council's Lillian Smith Book Award at the University of Georgia. [That's] how it
will be billed. They'll pay for it, but because we have a long, august history, they
will be elevated by having our history. They're worried about diversity. They want
African-Americans to feel welcome and wanted, and they want to be able to
recruit African-American faculty. It will be to their advantage to say look, we're
the institution that supports and funds the major civil rights history and writers in
the South. We can't be all bad. It helps them, and of course, it was a great relief
to us because we simply couldn't find foundation money to support it.
W: Who has previously supported it?
C: We had.
W: Right, through designated grants or [what]?
C: A penny here, penny there, everything volunteer. My friend Polly Doughty would
give us $1,000 a year for it. I sometimes would give them $400 or $500 to keep it
W: Is that a finite period of time that Georgia's taking over?
C: No, this is it. We will get to appoint the jurors and I think we'll have some consult
on the selection. We will write the criteria.
W: In terms of other publicity tools, then, what would you consider would be the
major vehicle for getting the word out about what the SRC is doing, other than
the products of the research that it still continues to do, but I guess that is linked
to what's your constituency? What would your constituency be, now?
C: I think we're having a hard time with that because we're so deeply into this multi-
culturalism. Let me just go back and talk a little bit more about the program
change where so much of our agency dealt with voter registration and
redistricting. All the universities are doing that now, and we originated this
fabulous program. I can remember calling every supervisor of elections in Florida
getting numbers that I would then feed in to Atlanta to put that together. Now, all
you do is you click on the Internet and you get the numbers and it's just
downloaded. So everyone can do redistricting, it's not necessary for us to do
that. We're going to get away from the voter participation and redistricting, which
will be really strange for us, but we can't compete with large institutions. That
energy is being taken up with the multi-culturalism. We're bringing people of
different races and religions together to talk about what's going on in American
society that's hindering them, what's going on that's helping them, how should
they be voting, what kind of people should they be electing, once elected, what
should their agendas be, and making sure that what is done for one group,
doesn't hurt the other. It's these kind of things that we're grappling with, now.
We need instruments that can reach this multi-diverse group. We need much
zippier, easier-to-read flyers, brochures, and newsletters. Another big thing that
we're doing now is working with youth. This fits in with the multi-culturalism too,
but getting youth interested in politics, getting them registered, getting them
active, and [teaching them] how [to] go in and organize their precincts and such.
We've got to develop the kind of literature that appeals to young people. We
produce some pretty stuffy stuff that's not going to appeal to young people, so
we've got to do that. Then Southern Changes is our intellectual vehicle. That's
appreciated by academicians and thoughtful people around the South. We have
to find a home for it the same way we did for the Lillian Smith Book Award. [We
need] someone that'll take it over, keep our name in there, report on our
activities so whoever's reading it will know what the Southern Regional Council is
doing and what its efforts are, but just to really take it off our hands because no
foundation is ... I tried to get money from the New York Times for it, and it was
not forthcoming. I tried to get money for the Lillian Smith from the New York
Times Foundation, but they said that would be too much competition for the New
York Times best-seller list. Certainly, no foundation is interested.
W: It's interesting that you mentioned that part of the initiative is to attract youth. I
guess one of the criticisms that could be made against the SRC throughout its
history is that, its not that it hasn't occasionally targeted youth, but it hasn't been
desperately successful in courting youth. It's always seemed like an adult
C: Yeah, we have not been zippy.
W: I guess that's partly a function of having hard-nosed research to do and stats
and figures to put out.
C: Right, and by not being in the forefront in how to publicize your organization. We
have been slow in getting web pages up and slow in tying into the computer
generation. Our 'Will the Circle be Unbroken?' was fabulous, but it's old classic
CD [and] tapes, and you can't get it on the computer. It hasn't been packaged in
a really sharp way. I don't know how to do this and I don't think the board knows
how to do this, but we do have now some people coming on that sort of
understand how to get your name out in the modern media.
W: It strikes me that there's a great awareness that it should be done. What I
normally do at the end of interviews is to ask the subject if there are any areas
that we haven't covered that you would like to have had addressed and to have
mentioned, and then to just ask for some concluding comments about how you
would characterize the contribution that Southern Regional Council has made to
both contemporary Southern history, but particularly to the history of race
relations. So, if there are any things that you'd like us to talk about that we
haven't done, that you feel obliged to mention for posterity...
C: No, I think we've covered all of the nuances. The role of Southern Regional
Council in the South and the racial South, in many ways, we've been a
moderating force. We've taken the passion of the day and couched it and
cushioned it in good research and good opinion and thoughtful exposition. So, I
think we have really kept the movement much more moderate than it would have
been. We did build up such high respect during the voter education as being
pretty radical, pretty far-out. The Black Power group felt they couldn't be very
critical of us because we were right out-front. We were able to be more
W: In some ways, if you had to look back from one hundred years, this is like a
dumb question for a historian to ask, but let's play this game, would you think the
Voter Education Project and the related efforts in the electoral arena were the
high point of the SRC's contribution?
W: All right. Done and dusted. Thank you, Jean.
[End of Interview.]
24 Pages Open
March 15, 2003
Pages 1-6: Jean Chalmers served one term as president of the Southern Regional Council (SRC).
Chalmers discusses the most pressing issues the Council faced as she assumed the presidency.
During Chalmers's term, the SRC began to accept government grants for research and require
program directors to raise their own funds, both significant departures from the Council's
previous operations. Chalmers describes the transition from board members in the 1980s who
were all active in the civil rights movement to the younger, more professional people who
replaced them. Chalmers discusses the contrasting expertise and management-styles of the board
members with whom she interacted. Chalmers says that by the 1990s the SRC was no longer the
prominent spokes-organization for the civil rights movement. Chalmers sees the loss of visibility
and prominence as a result of image over substance, and describes why the SRC was not able to
successfully transition into a lasting organization.
Pages 7-12: Chalmers compares the perception of the SRC as being overwhelmingly composed
of white males to the Council's actual composition of poor members and a real effort to not have
income determine one's involvement in the SRC. Chalmers analyzes how the composition of the
Council has changed over the years and the reasons behind those changes. Chalmers gives an
account of her personal transition from a multi-cultural life in New York City to a racist society
in Gainesville, FL. Chalmers describes how this obvious and stark contrast prompted her to
become involved with the Council on Human Relations and then the SRC. Chalmers discusses
how the male domination of the SRC led women in Gainesville to form the Gainesville Women
for Equal Rights (GWER). Chalmers describes the level of student interest and student
involvement in Gainesville civil rights. Chalmers details her transition from a local civil rights
leader to a member and then president of the SRC.
Pages 13-18: Chalmers describes the types of projects in which the local Gainesville affiliate
relied on the SRC for research and reports. Chalmers goes on to discuss the levels of tension and
points of friction that arose in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the rise of the Black Power
movement. Chalmers remembers the state government as being fairly receptive and progressive
regarding issues such as voting and public-health. Chalmers recounts how the passion among
African-Americans for expressing pride in their culture sparked in liberal whites the realization
that there was a real black culture and black institutions worth fighting for. Chalmers analyzes
the "Southemess" of the SRC and the role that played in the organization's operations and
Pages 19-24: Chalmers discusses the Southern tendency towards a slow, methodical thought
process and incremental change, and the influence that had on the SRC. Chalmers points to the
ways in which this process both helped and hurt the SRC. Chalmers describes the role religion
played in the SRC and the civil rights movement as a whole. Chalmers talks about the level of
success the SRC had in developing ties to the people in power in the South. She points to the
SRC's success in getting black people, as well as the SRC's failure to maintain good
relationships with the white elected community. Chalmers discusses the SRC's publications and
the role those documents will play in furthering the SRC's cause in the future. Chalmers
explains that the SRC today is focused on multi-culturalism and youth, so the publications and
communication methods will have to evolve to meet the demands of those new constituencies.
Chalmers points to the Voter Education Project and related efforts as the high point of the SRC's
contribution. Chalmers concludes that the SRC was the moderating force of the civil rights
movement in the South.