Historians | Educators | Get Involved | Sign Up | ACLU | Credits

Jack O’Dell: Attacking the Civil Rights Movement

Jack O'Dell is one of the most important yet unsung heroes of the American social change movement. In a 50-year career, he organized labor unions, wrote the first anti-Vietnam War editorial in a black periodical, and played critical roles in numerous civil rights campaigns. He held a leadership position in Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Determined to sabotage the civil rights movement, former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover used O'Dell's Communist Party membership to force him to step down.

My Story

Segregated Labor Unions. When I first went to a union hall, we went to the Seafarer's International Union ... (0:32)
Member of the Communist Party. I joined the communist party after the leaders of the communist party ... (0:45)
The Search for Communists. In 1956 I was summoned to the Eastland Committee ... (1:05)
Hoover and the Civil Rights Movement. I had two positions with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference ... (1:02)


Corralled. In times of national crisis, whole groups of people have been corralled simply because of their ethnicity or political affiliation. Their activities or loyalties were presumed to be suspect and a potential threat to American society. Max Werkenthin, Art Shibayama, Jack O'Dell, Samina Sundas and Roxanne Attie found themselves caught up in such corralling.