Congress of Racial Equality. Southern Regional Office: Records, 1954-1966


In 1963 the national office of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) launched a summer project to promote voter registration and desegregation in Louisiana. The Southern Regional Office was apparently created to oversee this project and to coordinate the work of local CORE chapters in 14 Southern states and the District of Columbia. Richard Haley, appointed CORE's Southern Director, headed this office. Operating on the premise that political strength is the key to racial equality and fortified by the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Law, CORE's Southern Regional Office joined SNCC, the SCLC, and the NAACP in forming the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) in 1964. COFO's Mississippi summer project included drives for voter registration, for the operation of community centers, and for the institution of freedom schools. The community centers were intended to introduce adults to literacy and citizenship training; and freedom schools would provide the same service to teen-agers. In addition, the Southern Regional Office promoted the formation of local CORE chapters with voter registration projects in all the states in its region, as well as self-help economic projects such as the tote-bag manufacturing project in a Tennessee county.

The functions of the Southern Regional Office included organizing and servicing local CORE chapters; making personnel decisions; coordinating the progress of local CORE chapters; attending to the budgetary and supply needs of local chapters; maintaining communications and receiving reports from the regional staff and legal staff; and reporting monthly to national CORE on regional programs and finances. Because local chapters strove for autonomy and were slow to send in field and financial reports, the Regional Office usually exercised more control on regional projects such as Head Start than on local chapter activities.

In 1964, the Southern Regional Office set up two new offices to handle special areas. One in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, acted as a coordination and information center for all Louisiana local chapters and projects. Ronnie Moore was appointed Field Secretary for Louisiana and head of the new Baton Rouge office. This office was especially active during the 1965 summer project to promote voter registration among blacks in Louisiana, and it closed not long after the summer project ended.

In the winter of 1964 the Southern Regional Office also created the Research office under the supervision of Judith Nussbaum. The Research office provided all CORE workers in the Southern Region with information about federal programs and legislation, state legislation, and economic and agricultural programs. This office closed in the fall of 1964.

The Southern Regional Office itself closed in the fall of 1966.

For more information on the historical background and functioning of the Congress of Racial Equality, see the national CORE papers (Mss 14) as well as CORE and the Strategy of Non-violence by Inge Powell Bell (New York: Random House, 1968).