Document 39: Silas Norman, Jr., Position Paper #3, "What is the Importance of Racial Considerations Among the Staff," Waveland, Mississippi, [6-12 November 1964], Elaine DeLott Baker Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.

download PDF


   Silas Norman, Jr. was a 1962 graduate of Wayne State University. An African American, he pointed out in this paper that whites and Blacks both have important contributions to make to SNCC. After his SNCC years, Norman graduated from Wayne State University School of Medicine and went on to a distinguished career in community health in Michigan and at Wayne State. At Wayne State School of Medicine, he served as associate dean of Admissions, Diversity and Inclusion. A press release ( when he received the School's Distinguished Service Award described him as "a driving force for diversity, fairness and compassion for the underserved."


    I am glad that this question is being aired. I feel that racial considerations among the staff are very important, as they relate to work assignments. I feel that a working relationship among whites and blacks, in some field situations, is greatly hampered by officials and community response, thus negating the work that has to be done.

    I do not know if I am willing to work in an integrated project simply to prove a point. On another level, I think whites and blacks should be used according to the functions which they best serve. It is apparent that whites bring wider publicity and thus wider support. Yet, it is also apparent that integrated groups in segregated areas are "spotlights" and that certain groupings, i.e., white women and black men, are a "declaration of war." It is also true, I feel that there is a sort of "ethnic relationship" among the staff and the community; I do not feel that this relationship can be entered into by whites.

    I think, moreover, that the relationship of whites to specific project areas must be decided for specific situations and that no generalities covering that relationship are possible. I don't think my observations are "way-out". For an instance, it would be ridiculous for me to attempt to join the white folks project, simply for physical safety. I realize that the white community and the black community have different bases of orientation.

    I think that an integrated staff should be able to live and move together to do their job. I think that they should be able to move with a sense of rapport and oneness of purpose.

    In summary, I believe that there are some areas (geographic) in which whites and blacks cannot be productive as a team. I am also of the opinion that work assignments be made on the basis of ability, that to include an assesment of the ability of an integrated staff to be productive in the designated areas.

Silas Norman, Jr.

back to top