Interviewed by: Matthew Quest, May 27-28, 2010
Transcript info: 95 pages (146 minutes in seven parts)
Accession No: L2010-05
Ken Lawrence was born in 1942 and raised in Chicago. At age 17, in 1960, he traveled to Atlanta to attend the conference of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and witnessed the emerging civil rights movement at first hand. The following spring, after his second year of college, Lawrence left school to become a full-time activist. He moved to Mississippi in 1971 to work full time as an organizer and writer. From 1971 to 1975, he was the Deep South representative of the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF), and correspondent for The Southern Patriot, a monthly civil-rights movement paper. Today, Lawrence is a free-lance writer, researcher, editor, lecturer, historian, and media consultant living in rural Pennsylvania.
In this interview, Lawrence briefly discusses his origins with the civil rights and labor movements, including his membership in the Young People’s Socialist League, the Socialist Party, and the Facing Reality organization. He describes his participation in activism as a young man and interest in various political philosophies. He enumerates the writings and people who influenced him politically and inspired his support and devotion to the labor and civil rights movements. Lawrence then elaborates on many of his published articles for the Southern Patriot and his experiences in researching and writing them, including the citrus and sugar workers in Florida, the pulpwood workers in Mississippi, the Farrah strike in Texas, the poultry plant workers, and many other wildcat strikes throughout the south. He also discusses, in a broader context, the changes and progression of the labor and civil rights movements over the course of life.