Samuel Block Biography
Claim to Fame: Civil Rights Activist
Date of Death: April 13, 2000
Diabetes Type: Unknown
An activist in the civil rights movement of Greenwood, Mississippi, Samuel Block was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). A stubborn, yet levelheaded individual, Block was known for his calm in the face of brutal opposition.
Born in Cleveland, Mississippi, Block was the only son of a maid and a construction worker. Samuel learned the value of education at an early age. Upon graduating from high school, Block enlisted in the United States Air Force. However, due to poor health, he was discharged and forced to pursue another career path. Determined to better himself, Block attended Marlboro College in Vermont, until he transferred south to the all-black Mississippi Valley State College in Itta Bena, Mississippi.
Block, who had become politically active while in Vermont, struggled in the repressive environment of Mississippi Valley State College. Vermont, though rural and isolated, was part of the more progressive north and more liberal in its political attitude, an attitude Block adopted. However, Mississippi remained broiled in racial inequality and violence. Consequently, Block threatened the balance of power in the area and, by extension, those who accepted that balance. Fearing what his activism could do to the school, the administration immediately expelled Block.
In 1962, still eager to join the fight for equality, Block set out for Greenwood, a town with a culture deeply rooted in segregation, intolerance, and violence. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had members placed in Greenwood. However, little was achieved by their presence and the NAACP abandoned their efforts in the town. With no organization representing the black population of Greenwood, Block and the SNCC made their move.
Fearing to participate in Block’s type of activism, many of the blacks in Greenwood were resistant and the SNCC was received with slammed doors. Almost instantly, Block was arrested for attempting to bring voting rights to the black population of the town. After a few nights in a prison cell, Block was brought before a judge. The offer to reduce Block’s sentence was placed on the table with the condition that he abandon his efforts to recruit voters and leave Greenwood. Not the type to run, Block refused and was sentenced to six months in prison. However, Block’s sentence was not in vain. According to those present, more then 200 black residents turned out to vote. Block’s activism and passion for equality made him a hero in the fight for civil rights and an inspirational public figure.
In the early 1960’s, Block moved to Los Angeles where he began work for an import-export business. On April 13, 2000, Block was found dead in his apartment in Los Angeles. Though the cause of his death was not announced, though it was well known that the former civil rights activist struggled with diabetes. Block is remembered for his key roll in the Greenwood Movement and for his fierce loyalty, devotion, and passion.
1 - Friends of Justice. The Greenwood Movement, http://friendsofjustice.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/the-greenwood-movement/ (Accessed 12/5/11.)
2 - Los Angeles Times. Samuel Block; Mississippi Civil Rights Activist in 1960’s, http://articles.latimes.com/2000/apr/26/local/me-23702 (Accessed 12/2/11.)
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