Bob Zellner

Bob Zellner

CLEMSON — Bob Zellner, a civil rights activist and former Freedom Rider, will speak at Clemson University’s MLK Commemorative Service Jan. 21, 2014.

Zellner was the first white southerner to serve as field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. During his activist career, he was arrested 18 times in seven states, including Mississippi, Georgia, Virginia, Alabama, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Throughout the 1960s, he was active in a number of civil rights efforts, including the Southern Conference Education Fund, for which he helped organize an anti-racism project called GROW (Grass Roots Organizing Work) for black and white workers in the Deep South.

In 1972, he spent six weeks in China lecturing at the National Institute for Minorities in Peking on the civil rights organizations and multicultural work in the white community.

In 2005, Zellner was featured in the documentary “Come Walk in my Shoes”. His memoir, “The Wrong Side of Murder Creek, A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement,” was published in 2008 by New South Books. In August of that year, The Library Journal gave it a red star review.

Zellner received a degree in sociology and psychology from Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala., in 1961. He studied race relations at Brandeis University and in the 1990s received his Ph.D. in history from Tulane University, where he wrote his dissertation on the Southern civil rights movement. He taught history of activism at Rosemont College in Pennsylvania and Southampton College at Long Island University.

Zellner currently works with the Eastern Long Island Branch of the NAACP and with the Southampton Town Anti-bias task force.

Clemson’s annual MLK celebration also includes the MLK Day of Service on Jan. 20 and the Tunnel of Oppression on Jan. 23.

– Blake Bachara