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1961. Chuck McDew, the national chairman of SNCC, was beaten, jailed, and charged with criminal anarchy for encouraging Black citizens to vote. In the South, in Mississippi, especially, where police colluded so readily with vigilantes, that was even punishable by death.

When we got to the courthouse steps in McComb, we were all arrested and jailed. The police would come and take us away, one by one, and no one came back. When you went, you really felt you were about to be killed. My turn came at two in the morning. I had to run the gauntlet of a couple hundred white men who were kicking and punching and spitting at me. Then they sat me down on a bench. I thought: It's all over. I'm about to die. I was so deep in thought that it took me a minute to realize that a man was hitting me in the face with a rope, saying, "You son of a bitch, you'll never marry my daughter." I thought, "These white folks are truly crazy. This fool is talking about a daughter I don't know, never met, and probably would never see in my life. And he's about to kill me because of some nonsense about my marrying her." I snapped out of my shock and said, "I don't even know your ugly-assed daughter." He struck me some more. But I was not to meet my maker that night. We were taken to another jail and once again charged with breach of the peace and inciting to riot.