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Civil Rights: The Queens College Student Help Project

Queens College Special Collections and Archives conducted 13 interviews with members of the Student Help Project, along with key supporters and advisors, over the 2020/2021 academic year. The interview questions were devised collaboratively by Mike Wenger (Queens College alumnus, class of 1965), Stan Shaw (Queens College alumnus, class of 1965), Annie Tummino (Head of Special Collections and Archives), and Victoria Fernandez (Freda S. and J. Chester Johnson Civil Rights and Social Justice Archives Graduate Fellow).

You can browse featured interviews below or click on "Complete List" for more options. 

Interviews listed in chronological order based on the date the interview took place. 

 

Mike Wenger and Stan Shaw, 7/15/2020

In this interview, Mike Wenger and Stan Shaw are joined by Mark Levy, the Queens College Student Association President from 1962 to 1963. The three discuss not only the impact of the Student Help Project, but also the outcome of larger student activist movements that were happening in subsequent years. Wenger, Shaw, and Levy recall other student-driven civil rights activities that followed the Student Help Project, like the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the campus Freedom Week and Freedom Fast initiatives. Also in the conversation, Wenger, Shaw, and Levy reflect on the media’s role in televising social unrest during the 1960s which motivated student engagement, and the connection between past and present publicization of contemporary racial issues in American society.

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Mike Wenger, Stan Shaw, and Mark Levy, 10/15/2020

In this interview, Mike Wenger and Stan Shaw are joined by Mark Levy, the Queens College Student Association President from 1962 to 1963. The three discuss not only the impact of the Student Help Project, but also the outcome of larger student activist movements that were happening in subsequent years. Wenger, Shaw, and Levy recall other student-driven civil rights activities that followed the Student Help Project, like the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the campus Freedom Week and Freedom Fast initiatives. Also in the conversation, Wenger, Shaw, and Levy reflect on the media’s role in televising social unrest during the 1960s which motivated student engagement, and the connection between past and present publicization of contemporary racial issues in American society.

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Rosalind (Silverman) Andrews, 10/23/2020

Rosalind Andrews (then Rosalind Silverman) grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens and was a student at Queens College between 1960 and 1965. While at Queens College, Andrews spent the summer of 1963 in Prince Edward County, Virginia among a cohort of selected students who helped tutor and prepare local students for the reopening of public schools that fall, which were closed since 1959 in massive resistance to integration. Andrews describes a typical day in Farmville as a tutor, the failed media coverage of the project by Look Magazine, and how her participation in the Student Help Project informed her decisions in life thereafter.

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Leonard Hausman, 10/28/2020

Leonard Hausman shares his experience fundraising, organizing, and participating in the Virginia Student-Help Project of Queens College during the summer of 1963. The Virginia Student-Help Project was a six-week long educational effort where Queens College students went to Prince Edward County, Virginia where public schools were closed for five years in massive resistance to federally mandated integration. Hausman discusses his role as a project lead and tutor in the Virginia initiative, as well as the trajectory of his career since being involved. 

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Fern Kruger, 11/6/2020

Fern Kruger reflects on her time as a student at Queens College in the 1960s, as well as the extent of her participation in the Queens College Jamaica Student Help Project. Kruger was a volunteer in the Jamaica Student Help Project, where she was a tutor to young Black elementary school students in Jamaica, Queens. At its height, the Jamaica initiative of the Student Help Project  engaged 500 Queens College students who volunteered to tutor more than one thousand educationally challenged, under-resourced students across New York City. In addition to building playgrounds in predominantly Black communities in Long Beach, New York and serving as a tutor to children in Jamaica, Kruger discusses other student-led activist activities on campus that eventually shaped her career as an educator in several cities across the United States.

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Hanoch McCarty, 11/15/2020

Forthcoming.

 

 

 

 

Helen Hendricks, 11/16/2020

Helen Hendricks worked as an Administrative Assistant in the Queens College Office of Student Activities at the time the Student Help Project was being organized on campus. Although not directly involved in the Student Help Project initiatives in both Virginia and South Jamaica, Hendricks was closely connected to many students and was considered a driving force behind the project, especially by interviewers Mike Wenger and Stan Shaw. In this interview, Hendricks discusses her role advising and mentoring students of many different backgrounds while working in the Office of Student Activities, as well as her experience as one of the few Black female staff members on campus during the era of civil rights and social justice movements of the 1960s. 

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June Tauber Golden, 11/18/2020

June Tauber Golden is a graduate of Queens College Class of 1963 and in this interview, she recalls her involvement in both the Jamaica and Virginia Student Help Projects as a tutor. The Student Help Project was a student-led initiative to tutor young Black elementary school students in Jamaica, Queens. The Jamaica initiative of the Student Help Project engaged approximately 500 Queens College students who volunteered to tutor more than one thousand educationally disadvantaged and under-resourced students across New York City. On the other hand, the Virginia Student Help Project was a six-week long educational effort where Queens College students went to Prince Edward County, Virginia where public schools were closed for five years due to white people's massive resistance to federally mandated integration. While Tauber Golden gives a general view of her tasks participating in both branches of the Student Help Project, she especially reflects on the power of the emotional reactions she had while participating as a tutor locally and in Virginia and how those feelings still resonate in her life today.

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Ronald Pollack, 12/3/20

Forthcoming

 

Jean L. Konzal, 12/8/2020

Jean Konzal talks about her early life in growing up in Pomonok Queens - her parents were left leaning working class immigrants from Ukraine, and her aunt was in the communist party. She also discusses her experience as a Queens College student and her involvement with the Queens College house plans, which were social organizations at the school. Jean Konzal was 19 when she saw an ad in the QC student paper “The Signal” about the Student Help Project, and began tutoring kids in South Jamaica before the group went to rural Virginia to tutor children there. She talks about the activities and fundraising that the group did to support the project, how scared her mother was for her when she went south, what life was like for her while she was teaching in Virginia, being in the country the first time, and the connections she made with the children and the community in Virginia. Her experience with the Student Help Project was pivotal to her outlook on the world, and her career as a teacher.

 

Leslie F. (Skip) Griffin, Jr., 2/17/2021

Leslie Francis Griffin, Jr., colloquially known as “Skip,” is the son of Reverend L. Francis Griffin, who coordinated with Dr. Rachel Weddington to have Queens College students tutor children in Prince Edward County during the summer of 1963 as part of the Student Help Project. The public schools of Prince Edward County were closed for five years starting in 1959 in massive resistance to integration, denying  many of the local young black students access to education, including Skip Griffin and his siblings. In this interview, Skip Griffin recalls his father’s prominent position as the reverend of Farmville’s First Baptist Church, president of the Prince Edward County Christian Association, and the county coordinator of the NAACP. Although his father was a renowned advocate for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s, Griffin remarks on the influence his father’s activism had on their family, as well as the community as a whole. Skip Griffin himself was not a student of the Student Help Project during the pivotal summer of 1963, but he explains his own involvement in civil rights activism as a teenager that subsequently led him to continue his work while attending Harvard University.

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Debby Yaffe, 3/26/2021

Debby Yaffe was one of the youngest members of the Student Help Project who volunteered to go to Prince Edward County, Virginia, in the summer of 1963 to tutor local Black children who were denied a public education for four years in massive resistance to the desegregation of schools. Yaffe contributes her memories of organizing and preparing for the summer initiative. In Prince Edward County, Yaffe served as the librarian of the Queens College group, rather than as a tutor, which she had to divide donated books between the six different tutoring sites within the town that summer so that each site was adequately equipped with learning resources. She also provides further insight about racist and antagonistic incidents the group encountered in Farmville that have been mentioned in previous interviews. 

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Phyllis Padow-Sederbaum and Carolyn Hubbard-Kamunanwire, 4/21/2021

In this interview, the experiences of Phyllis Padow-Sederbaum and Carolyn Hubbard-Kamunanwire are juxtaposed, led in conversation by a fellow Student Help Project volunteer Stan Shaw. Hubbard-Kamunanwire was the only Black person in the Virginia Student Help Project, aside from the faculty mentor and chaperone Dr. Rachel Weddington,  when Queens College students tutored in Prince Edward County, Virginia during the summer of 1963 to prepare local students for the reopening of schools that fall after they had been closed in massive resistance to desegregation efforts in 1959. The two women recall their younger years and memories of Queens College in the 1960s before going into detail about their participation as tutors in the Virginia Student Help Project and what it was like to live in the Black community Farmville for six weeks.

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