North Shore Summer Project and Selma Volunteers’ Profiles

Jean Cleland

As Jean noted in a 2013 interview, she was a lifelong champion of minority rights, befriending students of color as a schoolgirl in the 1930s, when few of her peers did.  As an adult, she faced tougher challenges, including the time her Wilmette neighbor, a community leader, said she hoped Jean wouldn’t market the Clelands' then-for-sale home to people of color.

In a letter to her family about her participation in the 1965 Selma-Montgomery march, Jean wrote: “ I rarely felt so right about any stand I have taken as I feel about this particular one. It was important that the South, and the nation as a whole, learned that well-dressed middle-class white people cared sufficiently about this cause to make the pilgrimage and be visible.”

When she returned from the South, Jean co-founded the North Shore Summer Project in order to expose the northern suburbs as a “closed community” and to pressure the real estate firms to “discontinue their discriminatory practices.“ She had discovered, she noted years later, "that we were part of the problem." Despite incurring the disapproval of others, Jean wrote that she and the NSSP group "found the backbone to challenge discrimination in our own lives and in our communities. Trembling, we stood up to be counted.”

Recruiting home-seekers from the South Side, Jean and the other volunteers would escort them to open houses and to banks in Wilmette, only to meet with rejection.  Frustrated by this resistance, her group started meeting at different North Shore churches every week, where they talked, sang, and engaged in a bit of “rabble-rousing.”  Chicago had passed a Fair Housing ordinance in ’63, but the suburbs lagged behind, so Jean and her “rabble-rousing” group invited Dr. King to speak on the North Shore.

And he came at their request -- sporting the equal-housing button designed by the NSSP volunteers.  According to Jean, she and her husband, Bob, had heard Dr. King preach to a large audience on the South Side earlier in the day.  After that event, Dr. King went to a private home to relax.  “Some of us,” Jean recalled, “were invited to go there, file past him as he sat in a lounge chair, shake his hand, and move on.  As we greeted him, Dr. King commented on my equal-housing button, whereupon I removed it and pinned it on his lapel.  That was a thrill!   I am sure he was wearing it later that evening at the Village Green.”

Jean was, as her obituary records, a “passionate crusader” for fair housing.

Jane Ramsey

The daughter of civil-rights advocates Ruth and Milton Glassenberg, Jane was fifteen years old and living in Winnetka when Dr. King came to the North Shore in 1965. Coming from a home in which discussions of civil rights and racism were common, she and her parents were excited to hear him. Her parents had actively protested Jim Crow laws in the South and discriminatory housing practices in the North, so they were all primed for King’s message.

Jane remembers that when Dr. King was introduced, the crowd broke into thunderous applause.. There was music, and she joined in choruses of "We shall overcome," swaying arm-in-arm with neighbors as they sang.  Dr. King spoke “powerfully, eloquently, passionately,” she said, urging them to be a part of the movement and demand justice. 

From that point on, Jane’s life has been committed to fighting against inequities and for civil rights for all people.   In high school and in college, she founded student organizations that encouraged students to tackle poverty and racism.  She then earned a graduate degree in Social Work in order to develop some of the necessary tools for carrying on Dr. King's legacy.  Jane said that she continued "hearing" Dr. King's message --and that of the movement he and others spawned that July day -- when, in 1979,  she joined and became Executive Director of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, a civil rights organization founded in 1964 that embodies the messages delivered by Dr. King on the Village Green. Under Jane’s leadership for more than 30 years, JCUA became one of Chicago’s most active and important social justice organizations.

Photo by Robert Kleiman

Carol Kleiman

Carol became involved in the NSSP through the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that promotes respect for human life. Her Glenview neighbors were appalled by her activism, and Sunday sermons at a local church demonized the NSSP activities. One neighbor called her employer, The Chicago Tribune, and insisted that she be fired. Jack Mabley, a Sun-times columnist and Mayor of Glenview, wrote that Ms. Kleiman was a "known communist." Whenever there was a meeting at her Glenview home, the Glenview police would stop the African-American leaders heading there, and a neighbor or two would call the police to report “troublemakers” in the neighborhood. Applying her nonviolent training, Carol never responded to the complaints and attacks.

Although she had had a few “memorable occasions” with Dr. King before the summer of ’65, Carol remembers his Winnetka Village Green speech as “electric” and very important in raising the issue of racism in the North Shore. His speech and the NSSP work solidified everything she had always believed in, and, having learned so much from the SCLC and the Friends' great leaders, she applied many of their ideas to the women's movement.

The “undisputed godmother of workplace reporting, ” according to the NYT, Carol wrote a nationally syndicated business column for the Chicago Tribune for 44 years.

Larry Minear

Teaching at New Trier High School, Larry spent the summer of 1964 ("Freedom Summer") as a stringer filing reports from the South  In response to a call for volunteers to accompany blacks who were under pressure in McComb, Mississippi for having sought to register to vote, he and several NT colleagues spent a weekend there.  He vividly remembers one letter to the editor of the Winnetka Talk criticizing the teachers’ trip to McComb.  The writer found it intolerable to have taxpayer funds paid to New Trier teaching staff used for that sort of undertaking.

Back on the North Shore, Larry was involved (through the United Church of Christ in Wilmette) in the NSSP.  He recalls going into the real estate office on the corner of Winnetka Avenue and Green Bay Rd., where the manager, when learning his purpose, said: “Sell to Blacks?  Hell, we don't even sell to Jews!”

A founder of New Trier’s Social Service program, Larry moved on to work in the federal anti-poverty program, design the Humanitarianism and War Project, and publish several books about humanitarianism and war. He and his wife currently live on Cape Cod.

Paul Soglin, Mayor of Madison, WI

In the late spring of 1965, Soglin and a dozen other college students, as part of the North Shore Summer Project (NSSP) set out in Winnetka, Wilmette, and Kenilworth, going door-to door with petitions calling for real estate agents to show and sell homes to African-Americans. Before the summer was out, volunteers had contacted over 600 home sellers and over 1,500 other residents. The culmination of the project occurred on July 25, 1965, when the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. addressed a crowd of 10,000 on the Village Green in Winnetka. The following Monday, Soglin, and his NSSP partners, joined Dr. King and Chicago activist and school teacher Al Raby, on a march to Chicago's City Hall.

As mayor, Soglin has worked to create a welcoming community by improving public transit; by eliminating food deserts and building public markets; by reducing racial and ethnic disparity in educational achievement, income, and incarceration; and by working to ensure equity in city employment and public contracting for employees and contractors.

Linda Davis

After graduating from New Trier, Linda went off to Oberlin College where, in the summer of ‘64, she went south with a group of recruits to participate in Freedom Summer.  In addition to helping black residents register to vote, she taught at a Freedom School in Sunflower County.  Part of the second strand of civil rights activists, she was sent to Oxford Ohio, arriving the same day that three civil rights workers had been kidnapped and, as later discovered, murdered. Rather than turning back, she promised to send her parents a postcard every day, noting that she inherited her courage from black activists like Fannie Lou Hamer.

Linda continued to live as a civil rights worker in Mississippi until the end of the summer of ’65 but remembers her family’s excitement about Dr. King's Winnetka speech.  Her parents, Jean and Charles Davis, helped obtain the permit to use the Village Green – a process that included a very volatile meeting at the Village Hall where her father, one of the most pacifist of men, almost got in a fist fight with an irate opponent. 

She also recalls the alarm of the Rumsfeld family (who owned and rented out the house next door to her family’s Winnetka home) when they saw a moving truck in front of the Davis home.  Turns out it was just Linda’s uncle, dropping off some furniture, but given the Davis family’s activism, the Rumsfelds were on guard.

Linda’s career has embodied the Davis family’s social justice principles.  After serving as a trial attorney in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice from 1976 through 1979, she became a Deputy Chief of that section. In these positions, she prosecuted cases of police misconduct and of racial and religious violence throughout the nation. In June 1984, she became Chief of the Criminal Section, remaining in that position until 1995 when she was appointed to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia in 1995 by President Clinton, a position from which she recently retired.  As Chief of the Criminal Section, Judge Davis assumed responsibility for managing the nationwide enforcement of the federal criminal civil rights laws, including prosecution of militant members of the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups and prosecution of the Los Angeles Police Department officers for beating Rodney King.

Rabbi William Frankel

Rabbi William Frankel entered the civil rights struggle through a dark door, but he illuminated for many the path to a better world. A native of Vienna, he was 15 years old when the Nazis occupied Austria. Humiliated and beaten whenever he ventured outside, he identified and sympathized with all victims of human rights violations. Although he was able to immigrate to New York before WWII, that early experience shaped his life’s work. As his son Dan said, Rabbi Frankel transformed what could have been bitterness into a mission to protect the civil rights of all people, and that mission grew even more urgent when he witnessed the effects of Jim Crow laws in the South.

In the early 60’s, after Rabbi Frankel had secured a position at Beth Hillel synagogue in Wilmette, he responded to a call for clergy to march from Selma to Montgomery. There, he marched with Dr. King and other Chicago clergy. When he announced the trip to his congregation, some members objected, arguing that a rabbi should not be “politically active.” These naysayers represented only a minority of the congregation, but the rabbi felt he could no longer be their leader, and so he founded a spin-off congregation, Am Yisrael, whose founding principle is social justice. He served that congregation until his retirement in 1994.

Rabbi Frankel was instrumental in bringing Dr. King to the Winnetka Village Green in 1965. Several years later, he helped found the North Shore Interfaith Housing Council. As one of the first Jewish members of the Wilmette Rotary Club in the late 60’s, Rabbi Frankel broke barriers, his son said, so that they would be open to others. Tolerance was at the heart of his message. Working for women’s rights as well, the rabbi became a leading advocate for ordaining women. In fact, he made sure that the rabbi who replaced him was a woman.

Mary Powers

Becoming involved in the NSSP was natural for Mary, who had majored in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin and had always been involved in social justice matters. The Winnetka Human Relations Committee on whose board she served was dedicated to safe and just communities, open to all who desired to live, study, or work there. She was also “concerned with the larger framework of social and racial justice in the broader community.” Meeting with volunteers from several North Shore suburbs, the NSSP activists sought to bring together a cross-section of people with similar goals. 

One of Mary’s most daunting tasks was to obtain the permit to use the Village Green for Dr. King’s speech --no mean accomplishment, considering that the president of the Winnetka Human Relations Committee who had preceded her had failed to obtain approval at the previous meeting. The Village Council pressed her on issues like “Why Winnetka?” and “Why should homeowners be inconvenienced with strangers parking on the street on Sunday afternoon?”

Mary said she was apprehensive that that Winnetka might prove to be less welcoming than the NSSP supporters had hoped to portray. After all, she had surveyed the homes on Lincoln Ave from Tower Road to Pine Street and found only one homeowner who professed to being willing to rent or sell to a person of color, should the home go on the market. But she prevailed.

Participation in the NSSP had a profound impact on Mary’s life, opening doors to lifelong friendships and involvement in other interracial efforts, both locally and nationally, from the Contract Buyers League in Lawndale, to the National Coalition for Police Accountability. She is proud of her limited role in such significant organizations and of the unlimited hope that the 2015 reincarnation of the Justice Project inspires a new generation of dedication and leadership for the challenges ahead. 

Priscilla Giles

Two years ago, when Priscilla was shopping at a Winnetka church rummage sale, she looked across the street at the Village Green and realized: “This is where I heard Dr. King speak fifty years ago!”

A few years earlier, in the late ‘50’s, Priscilla had gone to Washington to march for integrated schools. Having graduated from Evanston High School, she was well-aware of the disparities in white and black education. Although ETHS was integrated, African-American students were tracked into classes separate from whites’ and denied access to many extracurricular opportunities. Priscilla’s grandmother, who lived with her, had been the child of former slaves, and so Priscilla received an early education in segregation.

Today, Priscilla is still active in the civil rights movement, speaking out about housing for the poor and standing up for equal rights for all.

Susan Van Dusen, the First Lady of Skokie

When she was a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis, Susan heard from a friend about a march for civil rights in Montgomery. Since she knew her parents wouldn’t approve, she forged their signature and arranged to take the bus with her friend. But her friend dropped out, leaving Susan to travel south by herself.

Pulling into Montgomery, Susan recalls a big parking lot filled with nuns, priests, and fashion-plate women. Together they sang “We Shall Overcome,” and they marched through a black section of town, women sandwiched in the middle for protection. Two images struck her as she marched through town: people sitting on porches with ringer washing machines and the federalized National Guard with rifles ready.   Although Susan was able to maintain her objectivity about the scene, she lost it when an observer spat on her. That’s when she realized,“These people hate us for walking through their living room.”

After hearing Dr. King speak in Montgomery, she tried to get back to the bus, but guardsmen – pointing their rifles -- blocked the streets. Also barred from a gas station restroom and water cooler, she eventually found safe passage back to Chicago.

Susan’s career has been dedicated to civil rights ever since her college days. She taught inner-city kids and non-native speakers and helped students publish their writing. She effected change through editorials she wrote for WBBM radio. And now, as First Lady of Skokie, she works with women leaders to study a different country’s culture every year. “My whole professional life has focused on educating people,” she said.

Sonia Bloch

Sonia’s interest in social justice began long before the 60’s civil rights movement. As a college student at the U. of C. in the ‘40’s, she joined the Young People’s Socialist League. She also worked as an organizer for the Ladies Garment Union during the summer.

What drew Sonia to Selma in 1965 was a plea that rang out from her kitchen radio, asking everyone to come to Selma to stand up for equal rights. A young mother of three children, she contacted her good friends, Rabbi Arnold Wolf and his wife Lois, to see if she could join the Chicago contingency heading south. The buses were full, but her friends put her on a waiting list.   And when she got the call that a seat had become available, she jumped at the opportunity. Her kids came home from school to find a note on the fridge: “Gone to Selma.”

On the ride down, Sonia recalls, Lew Kreinberg taught the northerners how to protect themselves from blows by crouching down and covering their heads – essentially practicing Dr. King’s method of nonviolent resistance. Once in Selma, she remembers gathering at the foot of a Selma church, forming a ring at the bottom of the steps, and – with Rabbi Abraham Heschel leading – singing “We Shall Overcome.” He was instrumental, she said, in bringing Conservative Jews into the social justice movement, reaching out to many denominations to fight for civil rights.

When she returned to the North Shore, Sonia’s civil rights activism was not warmly embraced by her Conservative synagogue. She was seen as an “oddball” – doing something unexpected of an observant Jew. But her Selma experience had shaped her in ways they couldn’t understand. Among her many accomplishments in a long career of service, Sonia served as president of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs—an organization dedicated to pursuing social and economic justice for Chicago’s most vulnerable neighborhoods “by promoting a vision of empowering communities from within.”

Bennett J. Johnson

Growing up in Evanston, the son of a handyman, chauffeur and gardener for a wealthy family, Bennett was conscious of the civil rights struggle at an early age.   When his dad tried to enroll him and his two sisters in Orrington School, three blocks from where they lived, they were told they had to go to Noyes School, a two mile walk from their home -- just because they were Black. From that point on, the seven year-old knew that he’d need to educate white people on the abilities and accomplishments of Black people.

Bennett met Martin Luther King, Jr. for the first time in 1955, when he was a student at UCLA, serving as head of UCLA’s NAACP chapter and a board member of the city chapter. After returning to Evanston from Los Angeles in 1957, he continued to be active in the civil rights movement.. Over the next several years, Bennett became a close collaborator with Dr. King, a role that included accompanying him to the Winnetka Village Green in 1965. 

Bennett was the President of the Evanston/North Shore Branch of the NAACP for many years. He worked to elect progressive school board members who took an interest in educating Evanston’s African-American children and in desegregating Evanston's elementary schools.  He and his fellow activists prevailed after a long struggle, and the magnet school is now appropriately named the King Lab School.  

In 1961 Bennett and Herman C. Gilbert launched Path Press, a publishing house dedicated to promoting new Black writers and the first Black-owned book publishing company in the United States.

Dora Dupont Williams

Dora’s daughters -- Eve Noonan, Ann Jennett, Dora Keller, and Susan Lenfestey --remember their mother as an energetic, spirited civil rights activist able to work back room deals to negotiate human rights as well as march tirelessly for justice. The daughters note that in 1965 their daily lives were “steeped in talk “of the North Shore Summer Project, fair housing, and the rally with MLK.   They even recall some of the hate mail their mother received after that speech on the Green, including one that threatened her:

Mrs. Williams – You would do us all a big favor if you’d just move out of Winnetka to the west side of Chicago. We wouldn’t miss you at all. . . . May God have mercy on your soul. If you have so much leisure time, put it to good use instead of causing your neighbors trouble. The white boys are dying for their country while the negroes are demonstrating. WAKE UP SISTER!

Whether joining in early civil rights marches in the south -- including a stint in jail in Albany, GA --, marching in the streets of Cicero, or working to end discriminatory housing practices through the North Shore Summer Project she helped organize, Dora worked tirelessly “to bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice! “ The younger daughters marched with their parents from Selma to Montgomery, but all of them observed Dora’s courageous activism on the North Shore, where she not only protested discriminatory real estate practices but also, through complex strategems, helped the Calhoun family to become the first African-American homebuyers in Kenilworth.

As one daughter observed, her mother’s pursuit of justice was driven not by a mission to create more diversity for their kids’ cultural enrichment but to end discrimination and provide equal opportunities for all who sought them. Long before the civil rights movement touched the North Shore, Dora was known for her principled and compassionate treatment of others, seen as an “ally” by the less fortunate, one of whom wrote her seeking a donation toward a “negro hospital” for black residents of Glencoe.

It’s not surprising, then, that Dora and Lynn Williams’ daughters are seen as allies as well, carrying on their parents’ legacy by helping teens access good jobs, by developing sustainable land projects, and by monitoring cases of family and sexual violence in the justice system. “We were lucky ducks to have her as our mother.”

Doris Conant

As with many of the North Shore Summer Project volunteers, Doris was drawn in by Bill Moyer of the American Friends Service Committee, who galvanized hundreds of volunteers in the northern suburbs to end discriminatory real estate practices. Bill told her how this project in the summer of ‘65 would be patterned after the Mississippi summer project, recruiting college students to live with local households and survey the community’s attitudes toward selling and/or living next door to people of color.

Connecting the dots between the South’s racism and the North Shore’s resistance to integration was a cinch for Doris, who, several months earlier, had bought two seats on a charter flight to join others on the last leg of the Selma to Montgomery march. When her husband had to cancel at the last minute because of a business obligation, she took her twelve year-old son with her – an experience that would shape the rest of his life. And her story was shared with thousands when she called it in to Lerner Newspapers from the Montgomery airport. They printed it on their cover!

Fully-charged from her trip South, Doris joined Glenview’s NSSP committee, which, like the other suburban committees, set up offices in a variety of churches (no church wanted to be the central meeting place because they all feared repercussions from their members). She and the other volunteers staged silent vigils in front of realtors’ offices and collected signatures of supporters to print in local newspapers, as college students went door-to-door asking homeowners if they’d object to selling or living next door to a person of color.

When she asked one neighbor if she would sell her home to any buyer, the response stunned Doris. “I just don’t feel that’s right in my heart,” the neighbor explained, to which Doris replied, “It’s not what’s in your heart but what’s in the law!” Doris also sought Sen. Charles Percy’s support for fair housing, only to hear from him that “Every man’s home is his castle; therefore, he can sell to whomever he wants.” Another friend was afraid to sign the petition for fear of losing business customers.

Afraid that she might be “contagious,” Doris’s neighbors and friends “cut a wide swath” around her, as she pressed for justice.

Although Dr. King had some reservations about appearing on the Winnetka Village Green, Doris brought her children. As one of Dr. King’s staff members told her, “King was more afraid of coming to Winnetka than to the marches in Chicago.” A year later, she joined King again for the Marquette Park march for open housing. In this all-white Chicago enclave, Doris was attacked by young men throwing rocks and bottles, and Dr. King was struck in the head by a brick.

In the last fifty years, Doris has become one of the great dames of Chicago philanthropy, fighting to support civil rights and a decent standard of living for vulnerable groups. She runs the Conant Family Foundation, is on the Boards of Facets Multimedia and Chicago Public Media, and is a member of the Chicago Committee of Human Rights Watch.

Rudy Lubov

Raised by Holocaust survivors, Rudy grew up with a heightened sensitivity to the lives of the oppressed. Her parents had lost their families and possessions when they arrived on U.S. shores, so when the civil rights movement came to Chicago in the 1960’s, Rudy felt that “her story was allied with the struggle of Blacks.”

In 1962, Rudy recalled, hers was among the first Jewish families in Evanston, but her Jewish identify had already been shaped by a left-leaning alternative Jewish Folk School her parents had sent her to. It was there where she learned some of the humanist ethics that informed her social activism. And from then on, she “wanted to do something relevant and important.”

As a student at UW-Madison in the mid-60’s, Rudy Joined CORE and hung out with an integrated crowd, but when the black power movement surged, white students were no longer welcome. Undeterred, she responded in 1965 to an ad for civil rights volunteers during summer break. She applied and was accepted, perhaps because the position required excellent interviewing skills – a skill set Rudy had developed while working for her mom, a market researcher who trained interviewers. With the other college recruits, Rudy went door-to-door asking people to sign the pledge to practice fair housing and engaging them in conversation. A few years later, she had her head bashed by police at the Chicago Democratic Convention.

Rudy’s parents supported her activism, telling her, “If this is what you believe, you’d better do something about it.” And Rudy dedicated her professional career of forty-plus years to “doing something about it.” She’s been a teacher, a librarian, a principal, a principal mentor, and the Director of Literacy for CPS. Bolstering literacy education in the poorest schools, she has held fast to the ideals she cultivated in the 60’s.

Mark Perelman

Mark Perelman was only 14 years old when he saw Dr. King speak at the Winnetka Village Green. Being Jewish, he noted the four Nazis who marched there before the speech. He watched them leave and only learned years later that they’d left on their own after the Winnetka police chief explained that he did not enough people to protect them.

Reflecting on that day, Mark says, “I would like to believe that we now live in an integrated area of Evanston because of that speech, but I am not sure of it. It is still probably the most important cause that I believe in.  All I remember was how excited I was by the day.  At that time, we lived in an area of Skokie that was not racially integrated at all.”

Sally Wendkos Olds

Sally Wendkos Olds had been working in New York for the National Committee against Discrimination in Housing. Late in 1964, just before her family moved from Manhattan to Glencoe, her colleagues told her about The North Shore Summer Project, a 1965 effort by local citizens to open their communities to all who wanted to live there.

Sally shared several vivid memories: the inspiring meetings held to plan each week's actions; the vigils held outside realtors' offices, marching and singing; and of course the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s stirring talk on the Winnetka Village Green.

She also remembers the hate mail she regularly received, adding, “This was a new experience for me, and instead of frightening me it inspired me and made me feel strong.”

Sally believes that the people who volunteered for the NSSP gained much more than the people they wanted to help. Her experience helped her understand that even when an ideal is not fully realized, as theirs was not, their efforts were not in vain. Her experience motivated her to join other social action efforts, including the women's movement and helping a remote village in Nepal. Sally says, “Sometimes I could see tangible results from my efforts, and sometimes I could not, but in all cases I never felt that the effort was wasted.”

Sally currently lives in New York City. The author of many books and widely published articles, she has won several awards, including the American Society of Journalists & Authors Career Achievement Award (2010).

Pearl Hirshfield

From her early school days in Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood, Pearl was an activist, sympathizing with the oppressed and advocating for justice, whether it was boycotting Japan’s silk products during WWII or marching for civil rights in the 60’s.  Her mother, she said, “believed in one world” – one in which equal rights and respect for all humans were not only valued but practiced. A family drive through Chicago’s North Shore in the 1930’s sealed Pearl’s early convictions when she saw signs saying “No Jews or Dogs Allowed.”

During the 60’s, Pearl and her husband Hy, a doctor, blazed trails for civil rights work in Chicago. She raised money for the Chicago Seven and Black Panthers – soliciting (and receiving) donations from artists overseas, while her husband served as a doctor to the Panthers. She organized the April 10 Peace Walk, co-chaired the Illinois contingent for the March on Washington, and was one of the early organizers of Midwest Artists for Peace. She recalls finding her phone tapped after a fundraiser for the Rosenbergs in her home and remembers her home being circled by police cars during a fundraiser for the Evanston’s Peace and World Affairs Center.

Pearl’s activism found an outlet in art.  A highly respected and widely exhibited “artist-activist,” she creates “theatrical” installations that reflect, as one curator wrote,  “a necessity of involvement.” Her installations have taken on a range of difficult subjects, including the Holocaust, McCarthyism, police brutality, the Ku Klux Klan and cultural differences.

Nina Raskin

Nina and her husband moved to Evanston from New York City in 1957 when her husband got an appointment at Northwestern University. They were drawn to the beautiful old trees and the diverse community but quickly became aware of the blatant segregation. Blacks had to sit in a specific section at the movie theater, and they had to go to a completely separate hospital. When Nina shopped with her friend Dorothy, she noticed Dorothy was often questioned about why she, a white woman, had a bi-racial daughter.

When Nina’s brother-in-law moved to Evanston, one landlord told him, “Mr. Raskin, don’t worry. There are no Hebrews here,” clearly unaware that the Raskins were Jewish. When Nina and her husband decided to buy a home, their realtor steered them away from northwest Evanston saying, “You wouldn’t be happy here.”

These experiences motivated Nina to join the League of Women Voters with some like-minded friends. They took on conservation, housing, zoning – what Nina calls “the concrete aspects of the community”.

In 1963 she and others formed North Evanston Neighbors with the objective of promoting integration in housing and overcoming housing discrimination.

When Nina and her friend Helen Widen heard Dr. King’s nationally televised call to bear witness to the events in Selma, they decided to take the train to Alabama and do just that. Their friend Gracie Mertz had a bigger idea, and they chartered a bus. On a cold March morning in 1965, as the busload of young women gathered to leave, their husbands and small children said their goodbyes, and some women from a local black church came to wish them well and bring them chicken for the trip.

The women didn’t want to “look like hippies,” so they were dressed in suits and heels as they waited to march, often sinking into the mud. When they reached Montgomery they were far from Dr. King, but there was “a great feeling of the importance of being there.” At a rest stop in Birmingham on the way home, they encountered state troopers who made them line up against a wall. Nina says, “They were nasty. They did nothing to us, but it was demonstration of this terrible attitudinal difference that existed in the South.”

For Nina, Dr. King’s speech on Winnetka Village Green was just one in a long string of activities. She remembers it as a “beautiful, positive experience – one additional step in sensitizing and dramatizing shortcomings in our own community, and that there’s still much work to be done.”

Nina and her husband moved from Evanston to Glencoe in 1977. After her husband died she returned to Evanston and now lives in the very northwest neighborhood where they were told long ago that they wouldn’t be happy.

Helen Widen

Helen Widen was an activist long before Dr. King’s speech on the Winnetka Village Green. She served on the board of the Peace and World Affairs Center of Evanston and became active in the civil rights movement there as well. In the early 1060s she joined forces with some of her Evanston neighbors to purchase a 19-unit apartment building on Sheridan Road for the purpose of moving in people of color. They effectively integrated southeast Evanston and, as Helen reports, ”No one lost a penny on the deal.”

She also played a major role in integrating Evanston schools. Helen describes her role as a bussing pioneer in the late ‘60s, “They made a school in a black ward a lab school, and lots of us white families bussed in our children and bussed out African American kids to other districts to integrate our schools.”

In March of 1965, when Helen and her neighbors Nina Raskin and Gracie Mertz heard about the bloodshed on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, along with the call for people to join the marchers, they felt compelled to go there. They chartered a Greyhound bus and quickly filled it with young, white, suburban mothers and housewives. They could have filled a second bus if they’d had one. Helen left her four kids at home with her mother for the 48-hour trip.

The group boarded the bus at 1pm, slept on the bus all night, and arrived in Montgomery the next morning. They marched, listened to Martin Luther King, Jr. speak mid-day, and got right back on the bus for home. President Johnson had called out the National Guard to protect the marchers, but the group didn’t want to take chances by staying longer than necessary.

Helen’s strongest memory from Dr. King’s speech in Winnetka later that year is of “a sunny day at the Green with our families and having a sense it was an important thing – being there and feeling we were making a stand.”

After 1965, Helen continued her activism until she went back to school and began a long career as a psychotherapist. She says, “I had a season where I stood up for peace and social justice, which are still passions of mine.”

Helen still lives in Evanston.

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