34 In many cases the preexisting organizations actually formed these um- brella committees, and a significant number of churches became di- rectly involved in the movement to acquire the vote. During 1958 and 1959 civic organizations and churches reported that organized operations were in place to register voters. For example, in Shreveport Dr. Simpkins, president of the local SCLC affiliate, re- ported: There are some 15-20 churches that now have special registration committees which are available each Sunday to give instructions to prospective voters after services. The United Christian Movement, Inc., is holding voting clinics every Monday night; has secured the use of a voting machine for instruction and is publishing a monthly mi- meographed news letter.35 In Baton Rouge Reverend Jemison reported, "Eighteen (18) social and civic clubs have accepted the responsibility of providing the manpower to do the house-to-house canvassing .... the registration lists are being checked weekly and weekly classes are being held in several churches."36 Similar coordinating committees were organized in Mont- gomery, Birmingham, Chattanooga, Memphis, Atlanta, and Columbia. Cross-fertilization of ideas and resources occurred between South- ern communities involved in the voting movement and the SCLC's cen- tral office. Speaking of the City-wide Registration Committee of ) Birmingham, Ella Baker wrote that the SCLC had "supplied several thousand pieces of mimeographed material from our office. "37 Baker and Tilley shuttled between communities conducting direct action workshops and compiling complaints of repression against potential voters, which they sent to the Justice Department. Reverend Tilley spoke to numerous church groups and rallies, assuring them that God was interested in civil rights. Pointing to the importance of these meetings Rufus Lewis, Chairman of the Montgomery Committee, wrote: The SCLC's Crusade for Citizenship 111 [TJhese meetings have been helpful in showing first, what things are being done in other states; and how successful they are in solving their problems; second, in developing good working relationships with other groups; third in helping each other to see the vast extent of the whole problem. 36 The Crusade played an important role in acquainting the masses all over the South with the SCLC's "direct action" approach, introduced earlier in Baton Rouge, Montgomery, and other cities. Whenever local churches or organizations affiliated with the SCLC, members of the community were exposed to an organized group identified with the new approach. That community was now under the wing of an iden- tifiable organization, which conducted nonviolent direct action work- shops; disseminated Dr. King's Stride Toward Freedom, a book describing the dynamics of the Montgomery bus boycott; and urged blacks to change their status in American society by building mass movements.
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