by John M. Brewer, Jr., 2011
Paperback, 128 pages
List price $14.95
For decades, Homewood’s Westinghouse Bulldogs dominated Pittsburgh’s public high school football league. From the 1940s into the ‘60s, strapped for resources, even lacking a proper field, the Bulldogs also gave the legendary steel town teams of Western Pennsylvania a run for their money year in and year out. But why did so few of its talented, hard-training players go on to football success beyond high school? Was this about poverty or race? What hidden price were the players paying for early, dead-end glory?
“The desire to win drives on strong, perhaps too strong. The Room tells the story of the 1950s Westinghouse High School Bulldogs and their winning ways that came at any cost. The wins were attributed in part to a fabled Room where players were forbidden to talk about what occurred.
“In this football memoir, a former player speaks out against the team’s brutal treatment of players and how he rebelled against a cruel coach. A remarkable story of how the need to win can destroy the high school life, The Room is a fascinating read cover to cover.”
— Midwest Book Review
by Gil Venable, 2020
Paperback, 179 pages, map, numerous photos, indexed
List Price $14.95
If you’re a student or a lawyer looking to make a difference, you’ll be inspired by this very personal memoir of an intense summer 1965 as a first-year law student doing civil rights legal work with a team of lawyers based in Jackson Mississippi. After graduating first in his 1967 law class at Pitt and clerking for federal Justice William H. Hastie, Gil dedicated his life to legal advocacy in civil, children’s and Native American rights, environmental defense and other public interest practice, with the Children’s Defense Fund, the Pittsburgh ACLU and many organizations in Arizona.
“Now more than ever, our nation needs lawyers devoted to social justice. Gil Venable’s gripping memoir shows how his early engagement in the civil rights movement forged a lifelong commitment to that struggle and those of other victims of injustice. It should be read by every law student and anyone thinking about a legal career. Gil’s life will inspire them.”
— Richard Abel, Connell Professor of Law Emeritus and Research Professor, UCLA
“A compelling account of many battles against the discrimination and injustices suffered by Blacks, Hispanics, disabled children, immigrants and indigenous peoples under the heavy hands of the institutions of white power. …a new call to action for law students and others willing to enlist in the struggle.”
— Kerry Gough, attorney and author of Dear Jeff, a memoir of cross racial adoption and fighting discrimination from Monterey to Mississippi
“Part tales from the 1965 Mississippi voting rights battle, part rich family history, part primer on the law of voting, equal protection for the disabled and criminal justice…. information and inspiration. His fight goes on.”
— Terry Goddard, former Mayor of Phoenix and former Attorney General of Arizona
by Alan Venable, 2017
Paperback, 218 pages, with maps & photos, indexed
List price $17.95
Spring 1965: In the wake of an epic march in Selma, a bill is finally wending through Congress to end the rigged literacy tests and other devices in place since Reconstruction to keep southern blacks out of voting and government. At the same time, Dr. King’s non-violent “wild man” Hosea Williams is laying the groundwork for hundreds of students to canvass the south in a summer voting rights project called SCOPE. Two dozen sign up at Brandeis, a vibrant young Boston area college, to work in South Carolina.
Late June: The Voting Rights Bill still hung up in Congress, the Brandeis SCOPErs arrive in urban Richland County, soon spreading out to hinterlands in adjoining Kershaw and Calhoun Counties. There they confront a powerful mix of intimidation, persisting sanctioned segregation and astonishing poverty. Sheltered in black homes, they place themselves in the service of local leaders in a century’s struggle for equal rights. To the kids from Boston, it’s scary, frustrating, surprising, inspiring, complex, and rich in lessons on life.
The author was a member of this project. The book is based solidly on diaries and letters from the SCOPE kids that summer, plus historical research and interviews with people of the communities in which they worked.
“An important and moving memoir. Hope Williams would be thrilled and honored.”
--Elizabeth Robeson, historian
“Conveys the day-to-day experiences at a level of immediacy and intimacy that none of the books I’ve read about the civil rights movement have ever come close to providing. I was especially struck by how unprepared the volunteers were for understanding the complex relationships and political dynamics they were dropped into.
"I was reminded of the way I found myself in over my head in anti-war movements of the late 60’s, trying to run our ‘free’ clinic in the poor multi-ethnic community of east Redwood City in 1972 and the insane week I spent in Wounded Knee in 1973. Stumbling toward justice is probably a good way to characterize those chaotic years of the 60s and 70s."
--Michael A. Silverstein, former director of policy for OSHA
"Everyone’s heard of Freedom Summer, 1964. Virtually no one knows that there was a second freedom summer, after the Selma-to-Montgomery march in 1965. SCOPE was the project run by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, otherwise known as Dr. King’s organization. Its director was Hosea Williams, another major civil rights figure who has been overlooked by historians.
"A junior at Harvard, Alan Venable joined 18 students from Brandeis University and four from other Boston area schools to go to Columbia S.C. for ten weeks. While most of the Brandeis group stayed in Columbia (Richland County) (Columbia), five went to Kershaw County and six to Calhoun County at the request of SCLC’s local contact, Hope Williams (no relation to Hosea), a middle-aged farmer who was also raising 14 children with his wife.
"When the SCOPE kids entered Calhoun County, only 490 blacks were registered to vote there. They registered 114 in July, under the very restrictive registration rules typical of the Southern states, which were generally applied to blacks but not to whites. On August 6 the new Voting Rights Act became law, removing literacy tests, and another 500 registered in the next two months.
"Diaries, letters and photographs allowed Venable to capture some of what they experienced without relying solely on memories. Hope’s Kids is full of stories about the summer from the tedious to the dangerous, including many local teenagers who would otherwise be missing from civil rights histories. It confirms what all civil right workers who went South quickly learned, that Southern black teenagers were the infantry of the Southern civil rights movement.
"While they all did a lot of canvassing, the teenagers wanted a little excitement, which meant sit-ins and demonstrations. The (white) library and the public swimming pool in Calhoun County closed when they tried to use them, the pool filled in with sand.
The Klan held a rally. Crosses were burned. The cops stopped SCOPE cars whenever they could and issued tickets, or just hauled the driver to jail. Fortunately, two of the few black lawyers in S.C. were in Columbia and Orangeburg.
For those who want to know what it was like to be a civil rights worker in the South for a summer, this is a good book to read.
--Jo Freeman, SCOPE volunteer, author of At Berkeley in the Sixties: The Making of an Activist
& We Will Be Heard: Women's Struggles for Political Power in the United States
"It's hard to remember how brave pacifist students were in a hostile, non-pacifist environment. It's even harder to remember the incredible courage of local blacks -- most of whom were poor, uneducated and dependent on white employment and white ‘sufferance,’ to take the registration exam and, in that simple act, challenge the legacy of slavery and 100 years of official segregation.
"Alan puts names and faces on these unsung and semi-sung heroes who broke the system that had kept them trapped, with the help of outsiders who were quite rightly agitating for change. This is personal history, fortified by recent research, from the bottom up. Alan's well-researched, well-documented reconstruction provides an unromanticized and forthright account."
--Curtis Seltzer, author of The Point of the Pick & Squeezing the Flats
A fascinating history. Through dogged research, Mr. Venable was able to re-connect with nearly every one of the Brandeis SCOPE group of 23, mostly white students (only one was African-American). These passionate, dedicated, hard-working kids had a lot to learn from the communities they worked in. Mr. Venable’s finely grained history drawn from diaries, letters, photographs, radio interviews and oral histories is a compelling read and a book for our times.
--Ellen Schell, Senior Advisor, Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance