Raised in Detroit, Michigan
Stuart (Stu) House was born into a northern Black middle-class family, far away from the unfolding Civil Rights Movement in the South. But one evening in 1960, he turned on the television news and watched in awe as young students in the South nonviolently sat-in at restaurants only to be hauled off to jail by white police officers. He naively asked his father, “Why are they doing that? Why are they being arrested?” His father replied, “Well, there are white people who don’t think that Black people are as good as white people.” That answer forced House to consider how Black people had been systematically discriminated against and disenfranchised for generations. He knew he wanted to become part of the Movement being led by these young students.
At the end of high school, House was planning to attend Harvard University. But he had been tutoring in the Northern Student Movement, and instead of the university, he decided to work with SNCC full-time. “I’m not going to Harvard, mom,” he told his mother. “I’m going to Mississippi.” At 17, House left for Greenwood, Mississippi to be a part of Freedom Summer in 1964.
During his time in the Delta, House promoted Black cultural, political, and intellectual thought. As a musician, House played guitar for the Free Southern Theater’s production of “In White America.” Later on, House became a SNCC field secretary devoting most of his attention to voter rights projects in Sumter, Greene and Dallas County, Alabama. In 1966, he married another SNCC worker, Gloria Larry, at the Episcopal church on the campus of Tuskegee University. Their reception served as a kind of reunion for SNCC staff who were spread across the South.
While visiting Selma in 1967, he along with Don Jelinek, Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Jimmy Lytle, and Thomas Lorenzo Taylor also known as “Obaka” were arrested in Selma for urging people to register to vote. One day, Taylor was driving through Selma encouraging local Black people to register to vote. Eventually, the police pulled him over and sent him to jail. As this incident unfolded, House began to address the crowd of people around him. He said, “This is the kind of thing we need to prevent. If we are registered to vote, we can have Black Power. We can stop this kind of stuff. You need to register to vote. Get it? Register to vote.” House was then arrested for inciting a riot.
When reflecting on his time in the Movement, House attributed the courage and fearlessness of older workers as his ongoing involvement with SNCC. He witnessed ordinary men and women in places like Mississippi and Alabama risk their lives to create a better world for disenfranchised Black people. “I think that their sacrifice also emboldened us to keep on fighting, to keep on struggling, because they lost their lives.”
Gloria House, “We’ll Never Turn Back,” Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC, edited by Faith Holsaert et al. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010), 513.
Stu House, “Inciting to Riot”, 2010, Civil Rights Movement Veterans Website, Tougaloo College.
“Fear, Courage, and Commitment in the Freedom Movement: A Discussion,” April, 2015, Civil Rights Movement Veterans Website, Tougaloo College.
Peter Kellman, “Freedom Movement Memories,” February 8, 2015, Civil Rights Movement Veterans Website, Tougaloo College.