November 9, 1938 – September 21, 2022
Raised in Chicago, Illinois
Through her journalism and alliance-building in the Movement, Ethel Minor fought for justice for oppressed people around the world. She grew up in Chicago but was living in South America when the sit-in movement erupted in 1960. While in Colombia, Minor learned to speak fluent Spanish, a skill that later enhanced SNCC’s communications department and her activism in general.
Back in the United States, she began working with the Nation of Islam, and in 1964, after Malcolm X’s break with the Nation, he entrusted her to become secretary and office manager for his newly-formed Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). After his assassination in 1965, she became involved with SNCC.
With Charlie Cobb’s guidance, Minor began working in SNCC’s communications office and became its director. As editor of the SNCC newsletter in the summer of 1967, she assumed the great responsibility of balancing various viewpoints within the organization and had a large say in which internal debates became public. She was also a public representative of the group, fielding questions from the press at a time when SNCC’s every move was scrutinized by the feds.
As SNCC increasingly linked the Black Freedom Struggle in the United States to anticolonial struggles abroad, the newsletter put more focus on international issues. James Forman, now head of SNCC’s International Bureau encouraged the creation of a space for debate and understanding. In the summer 1967 with the outbreak of the Six-Day War “Arab-Israeli War,” SNCC staffers decided to speak to the issue of Palestine.
That particular newsletter generated as much controversy as Stokely Carmichael’s call for “Black Power” the year before. As editor, Minor wrote an “objective critique of the facts”–information she felt the mainstream American press would withhold from Blacks in struggle. Minor’s article was blunt, condemning the Israeli zionist agenda and violence toward Palestine. The language, and graphics in particular, were widely seen as anti-semitic. Some enraged SNCC donors withdrew their support, and the wrath of the mainstream media was loud.
Minor also edited much of Stokely Carmichael’s political correspondence and took on the role of editing Stokely Speaks, his collection of speeches. When he was consumed by African freedom struggles in 1969, he trusted her to write on his international travels in Muhammad Speaks.
Later, Minor became involved with efforts at a Black and brown alliance in the Southwest.
Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981), 266-272.
Stokely Carmichael with Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) (New York, Scribner, 2005), 548.
Peniel E. Joseph, Stokely: A Life (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2015), 240.