NYC CORE college chapters

CORE’s NYC college chapters functioned primarily as support units for the adult chapters, especially the borough chapters (Bronx CORE, New York CORE, etc.). They provided troops for picketing, demonstrations, petitions, fund raising, collecting resources for work in Mississippi and the south. The college chapters were also good for getting other college students, even if they were not members, involved in CORE projects. This would have been especially important for the larger city wide projects such as the World’s Fair or various summer of 1963 demonstrations.

The college chapters also served a social function in that they provided a space and the opportunity for students to get along with people of other races/ethnicities. These colleges at the time are essentially White schools. Making physical contact with people of other races is often seen as a positive first step in dealing with racial discrimination.

College chapters also often had tutoring programs for local youth. This is significant in terms of initiating and supporting the entrance of non-Whites into those colleges.

The downside for the college chapters was the fact members were there for a limited amount of time. Summer months would have been the least productive. This made it more difficult to sustain projects over time.

When CORE went Black Power, the chapters seemed to have died out since the membership was almost all White. Many like Elliot Linzer of Queens College CORE joined other groups such as Students for Democratic Society (SDS) and became active in the anti-war movement. It should also be noted the White members appear to have been overwhelmingly Jewish, especially the leadership.

The first college chapter in NYC was at the City College of New York, CCNY CORE. By 1949, it had eighteen members and was chaired by Al Ettinger. Other officers included Robin Roe, Olive Roach, Earl Benjamin and Sidney Seifer. Most of its officers had some experience in New York CORE.

In an effort to bring charges against two faculty members for anti-semitism and ‘permitting segregation of negroes’ in a CCNY dormitory for veterans, CCNY CORE formed and led a coalition of student groups dubbed EQUITY. The student strike it led demanded a trial for and suspension of the two faculty. The walkout was successful in bringing the cases and issues to the public’s attention. According to the New York Times, it was ‘the first general strike of students of a municipal institution of higher learning in the city’. As it started, however, demonstrators physically fought with NYPD officers in ‘near riot proportions’ to stop from being cleared from the entrance of CCNY’s main building.

Carl Holmes, who participated in New York CORE’s Palisades Park campaign, became CCNY CORE chair by the end of the year. Other officers included Jaqueline Bagwell, Frank Heymann, Herbert Johnson, Robert Roe and Richard Bugler.

By Feb 1952, the chapter was considered mostly inactive. Gary Schlessinger and Harry Pollak were noted for attempting to re-activate it.

Not until the fall of 1960 does a CCNY CORE seem to be up and running. Bob Atkins was listed as chair. Other officers included Louis Montag, Alan Gewertemay, Ann Minnerap.

By the time Terry Perlman, a Freedom Rider who served prison time in Mississippi, became chair, it was relatively busy. Because CCNY CORE was limited by funds, though it mostly concerned itself with projects undertaken by CORE and other chapters.

It participated in Brooklyn CORE’s campaign against Ebinger’s Bakery and worked with New York CORE on housing issues in Harlem. It took part in CORE’s demonstrations against Sealtest, both the Republican and Democratic parties, the Route 40 freedom rides and worked with LIU CORE on the Freedom Highways campaign.

The group was relatively small, ranging anywhere from 11-23 active members, mostly White with at least one or two Black members. There was at least one Chinese member, Moon Eng. Besides being one of the few Asians in CORE, he is also note worthy for becoming a field secretary and being married to one of the original thirteen Freedom Riders - Jean Thompson of New Orleans CORE.

Other officers included Stu Wechsler, Natalie Genin, Helen Morton, Marshall Harth, Elen Brodsky, Ken Suslak, Peggy Goodwin, Bob Nelson, Judy Weinstein, Bruce Cutler, Larry Freda, John Miller, Paul Gilbert, (Ms.) Jessie Robert, Laura Bilander, Fred Newdon.

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