Oral history interview with Bruce Hartford, 2002


Hartford, Bruce (Interviewee)
Michaels, Sheila, 1939-2017 (Interviewer)
Oral history interview with Bruce Hartford, 2002
Other Titles
Reminiscences of Bruce Hartford, 2002; Oral history of Bruce Hartford, 2002
This interview begins with Bruce Hartford's first insights into issues of racial equality. Hartford recalls his upbringing in a working class Los Angeles neighborhood. He also discusses the discrimination his parents faced as Communists, and the role his parents had on his politics. Hartford enrolled in Los Angeles City College. Hartford remembers footage of an L.A. CORE demonstration playing in a cafe inspiring him to join in 1963. He reminisces on his first demonstration and the 1963 March on Washington. In the fall of 1963, Hartford transferred to University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), where he formed the Non-Violent Action Committee (NVAC) and worked on a statewide anti-discrimination campaign in May 1964. Hartford describes the tactics and outcome of this campaign. He goes on to recall, in great detail, the events of a 1964 picket line against 'Wich Stand, a restaurant in inner-city Los Angeles. Also discussed is the Los Angeles welfare system, philosophical versus tactical nonviolence, and Hartford's experiences serving time at California State Prison, Los Angeles County. Hartford began working for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in January of 1965. Hartford describes the aftermath of Bloody Sunday, the conditions of the marches, and the significance of community organizing through Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Also discussed is: police relations and the negotiations of James Bevel; Sheriff Jim Clark; the importance of the Tuskegee Institute Advancement League (TILE) and other local organizations; and the legacies of SNCC and SCLC. Following his involvement in Selma, Hartford was relocated by SCLC to Luverne, Alabama, to train volunteers in a Voting Rights Act enforcement program. Hartford recalls the SCLC Alabama leader, Albert Turner, and experiences training local Black youth non-violent tactics. Described at length is the Black community's engagement in Luverne and a car chase with the Ku Klux Klan in Brantley, Alabama. Hartford explains the outcome of the first round of interracial local elections, James Meredith's 1966 assassination in Mississippi, and the subsequent March Against Fear. Hartford was reassigned to Grenada, Mississippi in the summer of 1966 and describes the bloody aftermath of a school desegregation order. Hartford participated in the first mass antiwar protest in March 1967 and in September enrolled in San Francisco State. He joined Students for a Democratic Society, in which he formed a chapter named after Joe Hill. Hartford briefly cites his engagement in the Third World Liberation Front Strikes of 1968 and his employment as a longshoreman. Finally, Hartford discusses his travels to Eastern and Southeastern Asia from 1970 to 1972, where he helped GIs distribute and produce Semper Fi, an underground anti war newspaper
Collection Name
Sheila Michaels civil rights organization oral history collection
Civil rights demonstrations--California; Civil rights demonstrations--Alabama; African Americans--Suffrage--Alabama; Peace movements--History--20th century.--United States; Hartford, Bruce (Civil rights activist); Congress of Racial Equality; Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (U.S.); Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)
oral histories
Physical Description
99 pages
Note (Biographical)
Bruce Hartford grew up in working-class Los Angeles. In 1963, Hartford became involved in the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) activity and founded the Non-Violent Action Committee (NVAC). He graduated from Dorsey High School and Los Angeles City Co llege. In January 1965, Hartford left the University of California at Los Angeles for Selma, Alabama. There, Hartford worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and participated in the Selma to Montgomery marches. Hartford organized Black communities in Luverne, Alabama and Grenada, Mississippi. After leaving the South in 1967, Hartford received his bachelor's degree from the San Francisco State University. Hartford was active in Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the student strike of 1968. In 1969, Hartford became a longshoreman. From 1970 to 1972, he traveled to East and Southeast Asia to distribute and produce Semper Fi, an underground anti-war GI magazine
Interviewed by Sheila Michaels on February 5, 2002
Note (Provenance)
Sheila Michaels, Gift circa 2002-2005
Library Location
Columbia Center for Oral History, Columbia University
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Catalog Record
Also In
Oral History Archives at Columbia
Time-Based Media
Time-Based Media
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