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Bob Zellner, activist who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to speak at Loyola January 30

Loyola press release - January 24, 2003

(New Orleans)—Bob Zellner, adjunct professor of history at Southhampton College of Long Island University, will speak at Loyola University New Orleans on Thursday, January 30, 2003 at 7:30 p.m., in Nunemaker Auditorium. The lecture is “Martin Luther King, SNCC and Me: A White Southerner in the Civil Rights Movement. The event is co-sponsored by the Sociology and History departments, the Loyola University Student Sociology Organization, the Black Student Union, and the Twomey Center for Peace Through Justice and is part of the Biever Guest Lecture Series.

Zellner, the son of a teacher and Methodist minister and relation of organizers for the Ku Klux Klan, has been called a living historical treasure and civil rights legend. In this lecture, he will talk about his years with Student Nonviolent Coodinating Committee (SNCC) and the civil rights period emphasizing its relevance to current racial incidents and the need for multicultural diversity and racial harmony on campuses and in society. He remains active in the human rights struggle today.

About Bob Zellner

In 1961, as a young college student in his home state of Alabama, Zellner was recruited to the civil rights movement by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After meeting King while doing research for a sociology paper on race relations, a 38-foot cross was burned on the lawn of his dormitory. Because he ignored the advice of his professors and met with King and other black civil rights leaders, Zellner and four other students were told to leave Huntingdon College in Montgomery as punishment for breaking the city’s segregation laws.

This rebuke pushed him to join the SNCC. He went on to become the first white Southerner field secretary. As a member of the group of predominantly black activists, Zellner was beaten, received death threats and investigated by the Alabama attorney general.

After leaving SNCC when it became an all black organization in the mid-1960s, Zellner moved to New Orleans to form Grass Roots Organizing Work (WORK), a labor organization that spread across the South to bring working class white Southerners into coalition with blacks and convince all sides that this union could work. He left labor organizing in the early 1980s.

Looking for a change of pace and less stressful working conditions, Zellner began working with documentary film crews, taking them to significant sites and locating key players.

In 1990, Zellner began teaching and working toward his Ph.D. in history at Tulane University, writing his memoirs to use as his dissertation. Currently, Zellner teaches classes chronicling the history of activism. For additional information, contact Anthony Ladd in Loyola’s Department of Sociology, 865-3640.

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