Jim Grant

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Jim Grant


Jim Grant..is a Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism member and long time activist in the peoples struggles of North Carolina.[1]

Activism

Jim Grant was a member of the ‘Charlotte Three.’ Decades ago he was at the center of a drama that made national headlines and drew the interest of writer James Baldwin, activist Angela Davis and Amnesty International.

He was anything but under the radar in 1972. That’s when Mecklenburg County Superior Court Judge Frank Snepp handed Grant a record 25-year sentence for a 1968 stable burning and gave shorter penalties to his Charlotte Three co-defendants T.J. Reddy and Charles Parker.

All three denied involvement. They and their supporters blamed an overzealous legal system bent on silencing black activists. Gov. Jim Hunt commuted their sentences in 1979.

Despite its notoriety, the case and Grant’s subsequent imprisonment were a relative interlude in a long career of campaigning for civil rights and social justice.

“(Grant) was a true stalwart of the civil rights movement and one of the most important civil rights activists in the state’s history, or certainly in the civil rights era,” says Timothy Tyson, a historian at Duke University.

A Connecticut native, Grant began his activism in 1949 at age 13 when he joined pickets at a segregated lunch counter in Hartford.

In 1965, he was a student at Penn State, where he would go on to earn a doctorate in chemistry. Two months after that year’s “Bloody Sunday” violence in Selma, Ala., he was among 87 students arrested in Pennsylvania for protesting a paper mill’s plans to open a plant in the Alabama town.

Among the fellow students Grant persuaded to join was Curry First.

“He was very respected, very pro-civil rights,” says First, now a retired civil rights lawyer in Asheville. “He just had a wonderful, gentle leadership skill. He was a kind, soft soul.”

In 1968, Grant came to Charlotte as a volunteer with VISTA, the domestic Peace Corps. He picked up where he left off. His role in protesting the war and issues such as school segregation put him in the crosshairs of law enforcement.

A federal agent once called Grant and fellow activist Benjamin Chavis “two of the top militant leaders in North Carolina.”

Even after going to prison in the stable-burning case, Grant continued organizing – on behalf of fellow prisoners. He joined a lawsuit filed by the Prisoners Labor Union arguing for better pay and prison conditions.

In the 3 1/2 decades since his release, he has continued to work for a catalog of progressive causes, including N.C. Fair Share, Black Workers for Justice, the Human Justice Coalition and more recently, the “Moral Mondays” movement.

He continues to crisscross the state to advance the causes he believes in.

Every two weeks, he drives his red Toyota pickup with more than 300,000 miles to the Phillipi Church of Christ in Greenville. There he meets with Don Cavellini and other members of the Pitt County Coalition Against Racism.

For Cavellini, Grant was a cause before he was a friend. Growing up in the Bronx, N.Y., he wrote letters on behalf of the Charlotte Three and “Wilmington 10.” After he moved to North Carolina three decades ago, he struck up a friendship with the man he’d long admired.

“Jim is so reticent that when it’s time to take a photo, even a group photo, he’s likely to be in the back because he believes in pushing forward those that are less likely to be acknowledged,” Cavellini says. “That’s what he’s about: making other people feel stronger and able to take on the system.”

By all accounts, Grant lives modestly. He’s had paying jobs working for Legal Aid and as an organizer for the Southern Conference Education Fund and the Quakers.

One of Grant’s causes is helping parents and students find remedies to education problems through the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. He also serves on boards of groups such as the Durham-based Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

“He’s been a really fantastic contributor,” says executive director Anita Earls. “He brings this perspective of longtime commitment to civil rights and social justice in the South and he is still engaged in local struggles.”

Charlotte attorney James Ferguson has known Grant since he defended the Charlotte Three four decades ago. He says the case had a lasting impact on his former client.

“I think the case actually made him more committed to do community work, to fight for equal justice,” Ferguson says. “Before that case he was involved in pursuing rights for others than himself. The Charlotte Three experience demonstrated to him that none of us are immune from being affected by the injustices and wrongs that society sometimes visits upon people.”[2]

"Here Comes a Wind"

The Institute for Southern Studies' Southern Exposure issue Vol, 4 no 12 issue was entitled "Here Comes a Wind", and focused on labor organizing in the South. Contributors were Groesbeck Parham, Gwen Robinson, Jim Green, Sean Devereux, Carolyn Ashbaugh, Dan McCurry, Mike Krivosh, Jennifer Miller, Don Stillman, Melton McLaurin, Michael Thomason, James E. Youngdahl, Chip Hughes, Len Stanley, Clem Imhoff, Bill Becker, Bill Bishop, Tom Bethell, Elizabeth Tornquist, Ed McConville, Jim Grant, Fran Ansley, Sue Thrasher, David Ciscel, Tom Collins, Larry Rogins, Myles Horton, Higdon Roberts.

Memorial March

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Those present at the February 1992 planning meeting for the Imperial Food Workers memorial March and Rally included Ashaki Binta and Cassandra Smith (co-chairs), Cornell Locklear, Angaza Laughinghouse, Jim Grant, Gini Webb, Marcia Dean.

Black Radical Congress

In March 1998 “Endorsers of the Call” to found a Black Radical Congress included Jim Grant, Black Workers for Justice[3].

CCDS member

In 2014, Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism members Jim Grant and Zach Robinson from North Carolina reported to the CCDS NCC meeting Jan 19th through Webex.

Jim Grant started by talking about the upcoming HkonJ demonstration, an annual event at the North Carolina capitol. HkonJ stands for Historic Thousands on Jones Street. Organized by the NAACP but working as a broad coalition, they have seen 3000 to 5000 people rally annually. This year they expect even greater crowds due to the Moral Monday movement which happened at the state capital for several months and then spread across the state. Moral Monday movement is in response to the extreme right-wing legislation passed by the legislature, including refusal to expand Medicaid, cutting duration of unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 20 and reducing the amount of benefits from $535 to $350. In the Moral Monday protests resulted in 947 arrests, one of whom was Jim Grant. [4]

Task Force on the police and the state

Daniel Mejia, was in 2015, a member of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism Task Force on the police and the state with Jim Grant, and Zach Robinson.[5]

SCSJ Board

Southern Coalition for Social Justice Board of Directors, as of September 2018:[6]

References