Gilmore founded the Club from Nowhere, an organization of maids, service workers, and cooks seeking to aid the boycott. The name was an attempt to shield members from the consequences of openly supporting the boycott.
“Some colored folks or Negroes could afford to stick out their necks more than others because they had independent incomes,” Gilmore explained, “but some just couldn’t afford to be called ‘ring leaders’ and have the white folks fire them.
“So when we made our financial reports to the MIA officers we had them record us as the money coming from nowhere. ‘The Club from Nowhere.’” Only Gilmore knew who made and bought the food and who donated money.
The underground network of cooks went door-to-door selling sandwiches, pies, and cakes, and collecting donations. The proceeds were then turned over to boycott leaders. Donations came from whites as well as blacks. That “was very nice of the people because so many of the people who didn’t attend the mass meetings would give the donation to help keep the carpool going.” Continue reading.
This children’s book does an excellent job of describing Gilmore’s work and the day-to day-challenges faced by the organizers of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. While we recommend the book, there are some important ways in which it could have been more specific. Some of these can be addressed by filling in the gaps when the book is read aloud. Below are the suggestions, courtesy of SNCC veteran and Eyes on the Prize series associate producer Judy Richardson.
(1) Avoid the passive voice. For example, the book says “The next day a flyer was passed around…” rather than identifying a protagonist, such as “The next day, an association of Black women distributed a flyer.”
(2) Name other organizers besides Georgia Gilmore, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks.
(3) Don’t make race invisible in the text when it is central to the story. For example:
“Because she’d been treated poorly by the drivers so many times before.” This should say white drivers.
“The women sold baked goods to local stores, groceries, laundromats, and beauty shops.” This should say Black stores, grocers, laundromats, etc.
(4) Make it clear that the practices were systemic, not personal. For example:
“After she had already paid, the driver demanded she get off and enter through the back of the bus.” This phrase should be added: “as Black people were required to do back then.” This was the usual (systemic) procedure; the driver wasn’t just making an exception of her personally.
(5) Make the motive clear.
In the Author’s Note, it states: “Many whites also aided the boycott by giving rides and making donations.” The truth is that most white women gave rides because, as Alabama civil rights activist Virginia Durr mentions, they wanted their maids’ labor. Durr never suggests that white people in Montgomery did this because they supported the boycott. Of course, the word “aided” doesn’t necessarily indicate they aided because they supported, but it’s implied. Georgia Gilmore’s Eyes on the Prize interview transcript mentions “I had a lot of white people who contributed,” but it does not say that these were white folks in Montgomery. In fact, the bus boycott received national support.
We hope the author and publisher will take note and make edits before the next printing. In the meantime, most of these concerns can be addressed by the person reading the book aloud or in a follow-up discussion.
Published by Little Bee Books | ISBN: 9781499807202
Eyes on the Prize interview transcript with Georgia Gilmore (February 17, 1986)
The Club From Nowhere: Cooking for Civil Rights. NPR series: Hidden Kitchens: The Kitchen Sisters (March, 2005)
Georgia Gilmore, Overlooked Activist of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. By Premilla Nadasen, Beacon Broadside, March 18, 2016