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SNCC Retreat at Gulfside
In November 1964, members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) held a retreat at Gulfside to discuss the organization’s role in the movement and sort out future efforts by the group. SNCC was a student-formed and run organization that played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in America. SNCC was known for non-violent resistance to segregation and hands-on work in the most segregated areas of the South with a focus on education.
Workshops at the retreat included strengthening the relationship between SNCC and local people, communication problems for collegiate members with lesser-educated communities, self-criticism of the group’s techniques, and shifts in the organizational structure and programming of the group. The retreat commenced with a speech by SNCC Executive Secretary James Forman.
The 1964 retreat at Gulfside marked a major turning point for SNCC, as their organizational structure shifted from small groups of independently working activists to a larger, centralized organization. However, the focus of SNCC on its structure and programming at the retreat has been later criticized as interfering with plans for new strategies and leading to the eventual dissolution of the organization.
The women of SNCC used the retreat at Gulfside in November 1964 to call attention to their role in the Civil Rights Movement. Mary King and Casey Hayden submitted an anonymous position paper on the problem of sex discrimination within SNCC. They complained of the underutilization of women in the organization by limiting them to clerical work. King and Hayden firmly believed that women were the silent force behind the success of SNCC’s efforts, yet they were not given equal voices when the time came to make decisions for the organization.
Unfortunately, the paper did not affect the men of SNCC, as the issue of race in the organization was a more heated topic of debate at the retreat. The debate over the position of whites in the organization intensified in the time following the retreat at Gulfside, ending in the exclusion of all whites from SNCC two years later.
Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi by John Dittmer (University of Illinois Press, 1994).
Excerpt from “Floating Downriver or Swimming Upstream?: An Examination of the 1964 Waveland Conference of the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC)”by Kathleen Volk (Delta Epsilon Sigma (Alpha Chapter) Writing Contest Winner, May 2005).
St. Augustine Seminary
Founded in 1920 and located in Bay St. Louis, St. Augustine Seminary began as a school for black men studying for the priesthood. However, by 1959, there were white students and white faculty members at the school as well. This integrated seminary attracted much attention from the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission.
Established in 1923 by Bishop Robert E. Jones, Gulfside Assembly is a 60-acre retreat and recreation center situated in picturesque Waveland, MS, facing the Gulf of Mexico. In the 1990s, Gulfside was completely renovated, including a restoration of six original buildings and the addition of five new buildings. Its facilities serve as a meeting and retreat place for groups of 20 or more and can also be rented for reunions, receptions, weddings, banquets, and other events. An average of 5,000 people from all over the world come to Gulfside Assembly annually for retreats, workshops, worship, and relaxation.
Gulfside was constructed as an assembly place for African Americans during the Segregation era, as most resorts in the South did not allow access to minorities. Gulfside also served as the location of a boarding school for boys and a beach resort destination for African Americans, who were refused the right to swim at most beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. During this turbulent time, Gulfside acted as a safehaven for the planning of the Civil Rights Movement and the racial integration of the South. In 1980, Gulfside was dedicated as the 97th historical site of The United Methodist Church. It now serves as a place of fellowship for all faiths, races, and creeds.
Dittmer, John. Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi. University of Illinois Press, 1994.
Green, Linda. Gulfside Center Bridges Segregation Era, 21st Century. GBGM News Archives, Feb. 17, 2005. http://gbgm-umc.org/global_news/full_article.cfm?articleid=3004
Soul of America.com. Gulfside Assembly. http://www.soulofamerica.com/resorts/gulfside.html
Volk, Kathleen. Excerpt from “Floating Downriver or Swimming Upstream?: An Examination of the 1964 Waveland Conference of the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC).”Delta Epsilon Sigma (Alpha Chapter) Writing Contest, Vol. XX, May 2005. http://depts.loras.edu/des/Alpha2005.pdf
Wilkinson, Brenda. Gulfside Assembly Shines as Church Treasure. The Christian Post, Jan. 30, 2003. http://www.christianpost.com/article/church/146/full/gulfside.assembly.shines.as.church.treasure/1.htm
Wright, Elliott. Historic United Methodist Center Suffers Catastrophic Damage. UMC.org, Sept. 1, 2005. http://www.umc.org/site/c.gjJTJbMUIuE/b.1021311/k.AE6D/Historic_United_Methodist_center_suffers_catastrophic_damage.htm