Heard on Campus: Bob Zellner, civil rights activist and Freedom Rider

February 04, 2014

"While we were waiting, this was my eureka moment, my ah-ha moment. In my whole life, I'll never forget it. As we waited for Dr. King to go out in front of the church, Mrs. Parks — who was an organizer. She wasn't just a tired seamstress sitting on the bus; she was an NAACP organizer — touched me on my elbow (and I haven't washed that elbow since) and that saint of granite and quiet sincerity said to me, 'Bob, when you see something wrong, you have to do something about it. You can't study it forever.' Now, no one has ever had a commission in the movement or commission in the military that was stronger than that."

— Bob Zellner was the guest speaker at Tuesday's (Feb. 4) Penn State Forum Speaker Series event held at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel. Zellner talked about his work in the civil rights movement and the need to work for social justice today. 

Zellner has a long and continuing history of social activism, beginning during his studies in sociology and psychology at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala., where one of his assignments led him to interview Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks and narrowly evade arrest.

Zellner earned his bachelor's of arts degree in psychology and sociology from Huntingdon College in 1961, when he became active in the civil rights movement. He became the first white southerner to serve as field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC. Zellner continued to organize, mediate, write, lecture and contribute to documentaries furthering the cause of social justice. Zellner's memoir "The Wrong Side of Murder Creek, A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement" was published in 2008. Spike Lee is making a movie based on the book. 

Last Updated February 12, 2014