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Alan McSurely

Fifty Years in the Civil Rights Movement as an Organizer and Lawyer:

Al has dedicated half a century to fighting for civil rights and a more just society. After joining the civil rights movement in 1961, working with N.Va. CORE and SNCC in D.C., Al and Margaret Herring were recruited to move to E. Kentucky to help carry out the Black Power strategy of winning poor and working white people to the anti-racism, anti-war, and anti-poverty Movement of SNCC. In 1967, Al and Margaret were arrested for sedition in Pike County, Kentucky for trying to repair the breaches of racism. In 1968, they narrowly escaped death when assassins threw 8 sticks of dynamite at their mountain cabin’s bedroom window, and in 1969, they were arrested again for Contempt of Congress after they refused to turn over the names of hundreds of southern Movement organizers.

To stay out of jail, Al apprenticed himself to his attorneys, Mort Stavis, Bill Kunstler and Arthur Kinoy, some of the most creative and brilliant civil rights lawyers in history. (See Caroline Kennedy and Ellen Alterman, In Our Defense) After 17 years of working without a license alongside Kinoy, Kunstler and Stavis and their new Center for Constitutional Rights, Al and Margaret won a jury award in McSurely v. [Sen. John] McClellan in 1984. With his share of settlement proceeds at the age of 48, Al entered law school at N.C. Central. He passed the bar on the first day of Spring in 1988.  Over the past 23 years he has helped hundreds of workers challenge and win their employment discrimination cases. In addition to his private civil rights practice, Al  has served as the Chair of the N.C. NAACP’s Legal Redress Committee and currently serves as Communications Chair of the State Conference as well as the Legal Redress Chair of the Chapel Hill-Carborro NAACP.

Al McSurely

Al McSurely

Other Experience:

1979-84: USPS mail carrier, Union steward and newspaper Editor, Washington, DC.

1972-78: Associate Professor, Antioch University, Washington, D.C.

1969-72: Middle School Teacher, Maryland and New York. Organized and led Teachers Union.

1967-1969: As a Field Secretary for the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF), Al helped experiment with the difficult task of rebuilding the Black-White populist movement against racism, poverty and war in Appalachia. At Dr. King’s invitation, he helped bring three busloads of Appalachians to Washington for the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign. He and Margaret endured sedition arrests, illegal subpoenas, contempt of congress convictions, and an assassination attempt in 24 months, as the ruling powers went to great lengths to stop Black-White populist alliances from forming.

1964-67: As Director of suburban Washington anti-poverty programs, Al and some SNCC-trained organizers set up neighborhood-based programs in Virginia, Maryland, and across D.C. 1960-64: Fairfax Va. juvenile probation counselor; N. Virginia CORE; Editor, Gum Springs News, President, Saunders B. Moon Community Action Agency in Gum Springs.